The art nouveau movement that began in the late 1800s saw design changes in everything from silverware to architecture, fusing beauty with function in stylized designs. Art nouveau also led to changes in the design of many utilitarian household items, including furniture, letter openers and hairbrushes. The designs became notable for their fluid and graceful lines and motifs drawn mainly from nature. Lamps underwent similar design changes. Choosing the best art nouveau lamp is a matter of personal preference depending on whether you prefer to spend a lot of money for a highly valued antique lamp such as those created by artist Louis Comfort Tiffany, or an art nouveau lamp that appeals to your own artistic sense and features your favorite designs, such as dragonflies, wisteria vines or the female form.
Tiffany lamps feature beautiful and unique stained glass shades atop bronze bases. Tiffany’s most valued lamp creations were made starting in 1898. His style is so famous, it is iconic, the stained glass shades on his art nouveau lamps are instantly recognizable. This can lead to a problem, however, because some lamp owners think they have true Tiffany antique lamps when the lamps are really only made in the Tiffany tradition by modern companies.
Another way to choose the best art nouveau lamp for a home is to concentrate on unique designs or executions. An art nouveau lamp known as “The Cypriot,” for example, is a fusion of the styles of Tiffany and French ceramist Clément Massier. The table lamp features a ceramic base with iridescent swirls of color. The lamp was designed to soften and diffuse the appearance of electric light, which was new at the time.
Other designers created art nouveau lamps, but their names today are not as well known as Tiffany. Lamps made in Connecticut by the Handel Company were popular for their painted shades, with the designs painted on the interior. Other fine examples of art nouveau lamps were created by Gustav Gurschner. His lamps, created in Bavaria, featured bases designed in the human form with shades of shell or glass.