Art Nouveau was an international art movement popular in Europe and the United States at the turn of the 20th century, between around 1890 and 1914. It influenced many areas of creativity including the decorative arts, architecture, fashion and design, and is characterised by stylised depictions of nature such as sinuous organic plants, flowers and roots along with the flowing lines of the female form.
Described as the first modern art form to look forward rather than back, it was known by various names across Europe; in Germany it was termed ‘Jugendstil’ (Youth Style) and in Italy it was known as ‘Stile Liberty’ after the London store Liberty & Co which helped to popularise the style.
The movement came to prominence in Paris during the ‘Belle Epoque’ of the 1890s, when the city was transformed into an art gallery by the colourful posters of artists such as Toulouse-Lautrec and Alphonse Mucha. Mucha’s work in particular was pivotal in the development of the Art Nouveau style, with his 1895 poster advertising a play starring Sarah Bernhardt creating an overnight sensation with its new decorative style. The movement was popular around the world until the outbreak of the First World War.
Important artists and designers
Important artists of the Art Nouveau period include Gustav Klimt, Jules Cheret, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and Alphonse Mucha. Important designers of the period include Louis Comford Tiffany, René Lalique, Émile Gallé, Antoni Gaudí, Charles Rennie Mackintosh and Eugène Gaillard.
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