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What Was the Art Nouveau Period?

Art noveau often featured plant and flower motifs.
The Art Nouveau period included architecture with arches and curved lines.
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  • Written By: Marjorie McAtee
  • Edited By: W. Everett
  • Last Modified Date: 04 April 2014
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The Art Nouveau period, from about 1895 until about 1915, was an era when artists created a new style most famously reflected in jewelry, furnishings, interior design, and architecture. Many ordinary objects used in daily life, such as cutlery and dinnerware, were created in the Art Nouveau style during this period, as artists of the school wished to combine artistic sensibilities with usefulness. Works of the Art Nouveau period typically bear certain characteristics, such as long, flowing lines, an emphasis on objects from the natural world, and obsession with the feminine figure. Color schemes were often very understated, and focused on dull shades of green, brown, and yellow coupled with shades of purple, lavender, and blue.

The school of art known as Art Nouveau was most popular in England, Germany and France, with countries each creating their own styles of Art Nouveau. French works of Art Nouveau are generally known for their use of lines to create figures, especially plants and feminine figures. Female figures, especially with long flowing hair, were a popular embellishment on Art Nouveau pieces. British Art Nouveau pieces took their influence from the country's pre-Roman heritage, with an emphasis on clean lines used to form Celtic-inspired patterns.

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Many works from the Art Nouveau period emphasize themes of nature and the natural world. Art historians believe that advances in botany throughout the 19th century encouraged the creation of artistically-inspired housewares, jewelry, furnishing, and architectural flourishes that paid homage to the natural world. Many pieces from the Art Nouveau period therefore incorporate flowers, snakes, and insects into their flowing, rococo-inspired designs. Orchids, poppies, and irises were often included in Art Nouveau designs, as were dragonflies, birds, and butterflies.

Craftsmen working during the Art Nouveau period rebelled against the strictly utilitarian, mass-produced, and unimaginative nature of many of the consumer goods on offer during the later part of the 19th century. Mass production of consumer goods was in its infancy at this time, and many craftsmen of the Art Nouveau school believed these early mass-produced goods lacked aesthetic beauty. Works of the Art Nouveau period were instead influenced by the rococo artworks of the previous century. Many believe that Japanese artistic influences can be seen in Art Nouveau pieces, since works of Japanese art were quite popular in Europe during the early 19th century.

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