Trends in Art – Modern Early 20th Century

Table of Content

Art Nouveau

         There are a great variety of different art movements that are subcategorized under the banner of decorative arts. While there are a great many general categories, there are also sub-divisions that comprise “sub-genres” within the movement. One such “subgenre” is the Art Nouveau movement of the early 20th century. This movement brought a unique flavor to traditional painting, but it also provided a radical departure in what was considered ‘the norm’ for architecture and furniture during the time period.

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         In order to understand the aspects of the subcategory of Art Nouveau, one must first examine the general category of decorative arts. Decorative arts are traditionally defined as works in ceramics, wood, glass, glass, metal or textiles. The field includes ceramics, furniture, furnishing, interior design, and architecture. The decorative arts are often categorized in opposition to the “fine arts” namely painting, drawing, and photography, and large scale sculpture. Some distinguish between decorative and fine arts based on their functional intended purpose, importance, status as a unique creation, or as a single artist production. For the purpose of recording for posterity, the Decorative Arts Collection, Inc, was created in 1982. This recording for posterity included collecting preserving and displaying decorative painting in a variety of means such as wood, glass, metal and textile.

         On such area of artwork that is a popular derivative of this movement, is Art Nouveau. Art Nouveau was a radical departure from traditional forms of what is normally considered ‘standard’ forms of art. Art Nouveau, while there were many examples of Art Nouveau in traditional painting, the movement became heavily tied into architectural design and spawned a new and unique model of architecture that has been aesthetically difficult to duplicate. As such, there have been several institutions that have preserved the history of this art movement and displayed it for posterity.

         The Philadelphia Museum of Art, for example, houses examples of art that display historical and contemporary significance and are of an artistic merit. Additionally, the museum provides exhibitions and educational programs for the public so as to increase their appreciation and understanding of decorative arts and its associated heritage, methods and techniques.

         Of course, in order to preserve the greatness of the history of the art movement, those artists who were responsible for the creation, development and proliferation of the movement need to be acknowledged, More importantly, however, the process in which they developed the movement during their lifetime needs to be examined in order to place the movement in its proper perspective.

         Mackintosh Charles Rennie, (born June 7th, 1968, Glasgow died Dec. 10, 1928, London) was a Scottish artist and designer who was prominent in the Arts and Crafts Movements in Great Britain. He acted as an apprentice to a local artistic named John Hutchinson and attended evening classes at the Glasgow School of Art, In collaboration with three other students. Mackintosh solidified an international reputation as a designer of unorthodox items. That is, instead of centering his artwork on traditional paintings and portraits, he centered his work on atypical items such as posters, craftwork and furniture. In contrast to conventional contemporary fashion, his work was light, elegant and original and these attributes are exemplified by the four remarkable tearooms he designed in Glasgow circa 1896 to1904 and in other domestic interiors of his design in the early 1900s.

Mackintosh’s chief architectural projects at the Glasgow School of Art were considered the first original example of Art Nouveau architecture in Great Britain. Examples of such works include:

1.      The 1901 International exhibition, Glasgow (1898)

2.      The Hauseines Junsfreundes (1901)

3.      The Windyhill, Kilmacolm (1899-1901)

4.      The Hill House Helens burgh (1902)

5.      The Willow Tea Rooms, Glasgow (1904)

6.        The Scotland Street School (1904-06)

       An Image by Mackintosh.  (1899)

         Although, all contain certain traditional characteristics, they also reveal the mind of an exceptionally   inventive person’s aesthetic perceptions. However, he did not maintain his association with thus movement and by 1914, had virtually ceased to practice. Thereafter, he devoted himself to water color painting during the time period art nouveau was flourishing.

         Art nouveau was an ornamental style of art the flourished between 1890 and 1910 and existed throughout Europe and the United States. Specifically, art nouveau is characterized by its use of a singular, sinuous, organic line and it was employed significantly in architecture, interior design jewelry and glass designed posters and illustrations. In a way, the movement was a deliberate attempt to create a new style free that was free of the imitative historicism that dominated much of the prior 19th century art. Art Nouveau was a radical departure from this and it was first developed in England. Soon after, it spread else including Germany where it was called Jugendstil, in Autria where it was called; Sezessionstil in Austria; in Italy where it was called both Stile Floreale and Stile Liberty; and in Spain where it was called both Modernismo and Modernista. The term Art Nouveau was coined by a gallery in Paris that exhibited much of this work.

         There were a  great number of artists and designers who worked in the Art Nouveau style, some of the more prominent were the Scottish, architect and designer Charles Rennie Mackintosh, who specialized in a predominantly geometric line and particularly influenced the Austrian Sezessionstil; the Belgian architects Henry van de Velde and Victor Horta, whose extremely sinuous and delicate structure influenced the French  architect Hector Guimard, another important figure; the American

glassmaker Louis Tiffany. Below are examples of images of art nouveau:

         Unfortunately, art movements can not survive forever and, as time wears on, art movements that were once popular cease to be popular and have to make way for the next generation of artists and their progressive developments in the world of art. After 1910, Art Nouveau appeared old fashioned and limited and was generally abandoned as a distinct decorative style. The style was of great importance, however, in moving toward the 20th century aesthetic of unity of design.

         However, the impact of the Art Nouveau movement still resonates to this very day and the influence of the movement is still quite visible in architecture, furniture, etc. As such, the movement can be considered a successful as it has strongly stood the test of time.

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Trends in Art – Modern Early 20th Century. (2016, Jul 25). Retrieved from

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