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Distinct characteristics of Art Nouveau clocks are wavy lines and soft edges, a stark contrast to many modern clocks that have clean, straight lines and hard edges. Accompanying the wavy lines would be “violent curves,” described by many art experts as curves produced when a whip is cracked. Aside from the lines and curves, an Art Nouveau clock usually features nature-inspired images like leaves and flowers. In general, Art Nouveau clocks, as with any Art Nouveau furniture and ornaments for that matter, tend to have very elaborate designs that echo the beauty of nature.
As an art movement, “Art Nouveau” or “new art” came after the eras of Impressionism and Post-Impressionism, when artists looked to everyday activities, people, and objects for inspiration. The period of Art Nouveau probably began when other artists wanted to veer away from the traditional and sought another object of inspiration: nature. Artists also began applying the elements of Art Nouveau not only in paintings and sculptures, but also in other mediums such as interior design, furniture, and infrastructure. Even jewelry, clothing, and silverware would be designed using the Art Nouveau philosophy, extending the reach of art as an experience and a lifestyle.
In terms of the shape, Art Nouveau clocks do not have distinct and defined forms, but are all common in utilizing curves and waves to create a softer outline and silhouette. For upright clocks, even the base or the legs would usually feature curling and twirling lines that resemble vines or tendrils. It is also not uncommon to see the bases of upright clocks looking like tree trunks, sometimes with a sculpted figure of a lady or child alongside.
Aside from the images of leaves and flowers, creatures like birds, insects, and fish can also be seen in Art Nouveau clocks and in furniture of this style as well. Usually an interaction between flora and fauna is portrayed, such as the bird’s beak touching the flower, or the “vines” encircling the insect. Sometimes, even folkloric creatures like fairies, mermaids, and nymphs are carved into or painted onto the clock, as Europe is rich in many folk tales and myths set in the woods or the open waters.
Another characteristic of Art Nouveau clocks is the use of varied materials, many of them naturally sourced. These materials include wood, metals, and porcelain. Metals would range from silver to gold, but would also include alloys like bronze and brass. These materials would often be used together to build the clock. For example, the wood can be used for the sculpture surrounding the face of the clock, while the metal element can be used to outline the face itself.
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