Art Nouveau

Art Nouveau

Art Nouveau

Art Nouveau

Excerpt

Art Nouveau is the term generally used for defining the style of art which, around 1900, had as its main theme a long, sensitive, sinuous line that reminds us of seaweed or of creeping plants. Such a line might also be suggested by the way the spots are scattered in a leopard skin or by the flick of a whiplash flowing or flaring up, moderato or furioso, always moving in a sort of narcissistic self-delight. Welikewise find it illustrated in the figures of swans on a wallpaper, or making the locks of nymphlike girls flow and undulate, or thrusting electrical blooms into space from lampstands whose metal stems are as delicate as those of lilies.

Historically speaking, Art Nouveau developed between the style now known as historicism and what later developed as our own style of modern art. Like both of these, broadly speaking, Art Nouveau is a phenomenon of the Western world. "Between" does not mean that it was a style of transition: Art Nouveau, the German term for which is Jugendstil, its Viennese form being Sezessionsstil, and its Catalan version known as Modernista, also became known in Paris, in the nineties, under the name of "Modern Style," an Anglicism that is explained by its English origins. As a style, it carried its emphasis and its value, its center and its purpose within itself. Seen in retrospect, styles generally appear rigorously defined. In reality, however, their frontiers were often uncertain, representing a slow transition rather than a sudden break. In spite of the countermovement of the pendulum which seems to govern all successions of styles, each style, in the living metamorphosis of art, grows out of the one that preceded it and begins immediately to develop the seeds of the one that is destined to replace it. The origins of Art Nouveau are thus to be found in historicism, just as Art Nouveau later became the point of departure of modern art, transcending itself with new aims and solutions. It is true that, while Art Nouveau lasted, one was aware only of what had preceded it and had already become so exhausted that Art Nouveau artists fought against it in their desire for new forms and means of expression, feeling themselves destined to achieve a new vision of beauty and to find a form for new values and meanings. This creative will which inspired Art Nouveau found its area of expression mainly between London and Barcelona, between New York and Vienna, between Brussels and Munich, in a great number of works which achieved real perfection, even if the truly creative artists, here as . . .

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