Art Nouveau: Everything you need to know about early 20th century architecture and works

For the ability of artists and architects to blend traditional concepts with the technological innovation of the time, Art Nouveau was a fundamental movement for the birth of contemporary architecture and design.

Art Nouveau is an artistic movement that influenced the art world from the late nineteenth century to the first decade of the twentieth century, during the Belle Époque period.

It was born in France, then expanding throughout Europe, mainly thanks to the Paris exhibition in 1900 , but the publicity it received through the magazines and artisan workshops that were born at the time was very important.

In Scotland it was anticipated by the work of Charles and Margaret Mackintosh and their works also influenced Art Nouveau artists such as Gustav Klimt and the architect Josef Hoffmann.

Why Art Nouveau was born

Art Nouveau was born as a rebellion against the negative consequences of the industrial revolution of the late nineteenth century.

Fundamental to remember about Art Nouveau is that it does not categorically reject technological advancement, on the contrary: especially for Art Nouveau architecture it was precisely the use of new machinery and technologies that gave the impetus to create new architectures by integrating old techniques with the new ones, paving the way for modern design and architecture.

What the artists rejected was industrial aesthetics and seriality: Art Nouveau works represent an embellishment of industrial works, a contrast to the mass production of factory machinery and a revolt in favor of life immersed in nature.

Art Nouveau in Europe is called by different names: in Italy it is also called floral or Liberty style , modernism in Spain and Jugendstil in Germany.

What is the Art Nouveau style and what are the differences with Art Nouveau?

It may seem strange, but between Art Nouveau and Art Nouveau there are no particular differences. Stile Liberty is the name given in Italy to Art Nouveau, so called because it takes the name of the London warehouses of Arthur Lasenby Liberty, specialized in the sale of products from the East.

What are the elements that inspire Art Nouveau?

To emphasize the contrast with factories and the industrial environment, art nouveau is inspired by nature and its elements, which artists represent in their works in a stylized form.

The Art Nouveau artists saw nature as a vital and dynamic force, the perfection of form, constant regeneration, an element on which to concentrate their energies to search for details with a scientific approach .

Precisely for this desire for knowledge, some Art Nouveau artists have been influenced by currents such as occultism and spiritism , thanks to which to discover the mysteries of existence and the dark side of nature.

What are the characteristics of Art Nouveau?

art nouveau artists gustav klimt, portrait of adele bloch bauer

Art Nouveau painting has had prominent exponents, including Aubrey Beardsley, the aforementioned Gustav Klimt, Alphonse Mucha, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and Egon Schiele, but the Art Nouveau style has also influenced other fields.

Jewelery, architecture, urban and interior design, tailoring, lighting and even advertising were influenced by the Art Nouveau style, the latest thanks to the contribution of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, the first artist to elevate advertising to a true work of art .

In every sector we find the characteristics of Art Nouveau : sinuous and elegant shapes and the presence of stylized elements borrowed from the natural world, contrasted with strong colors, absence of symmetry and proportion and choice of unusual and extravagant shapes.

The vision of women also changes, taking on a new, more sensual connotation with erotic features , also present on the Art Nouveau advertisements of the time.

Art Nouveau painting, which are the most famous works

The Art Nouveau paintings are among the most famous in the history of art.

Among the most famous works of Art Nouveau painting we can mention The Kiss and Judith I by Klimt, The Peacock Skirt by Aubrey Beardsley, Moulin Rouge by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Tournée du Chat noir by Théophile Alexandre Steinlen and Woman sitting with a bent knee by Schiele.

Art Nouveau architecture

As we mentioned earlier, Art Nouveau is not a movement limited to art: one of the most influenced sectors was in fact that of architecture.

The Art Nouveau architecture took some characteristics of the Rococo style and made them his own, enriching it with details from the natural world and with the sinuous and extravagant lines that characterize the Art Nouveau style.

World famous Art Nouveau buildings

art nouveau architettura the samaritan woman, parigi

Art Nouveau architecture has examples all over Europe. Let’s see some of the buildings which are famous all over the world.

When it comes to Art Nouveau it is impossible not to mention Casa Battló and Sagrada Família, two of the most famous buildings built in Barcelona by Antoni Gaudí . The Sagrada Família is still an unfinished work today and it seems that it will be completed by 2026.

This year in Paris the Samaritaine Paris Pont-Neuf shopping center reopened, after a renovation that left all the Art Nouveau details that characterize the building intact.

Other buildings include the Central Hotel in Prague, designed by Alois Dryák and Bedřich Bendelmayer , the Museum of Applied Art in Budapest designed by the architect Ödön Lechner and the House of Chimeras in Kiev, also known as the Gorodetsky House, from name of its designer.

One of the European cities with the largest number of Art Nouveau buildings is Riga. All palaces are located in two central streets of the city, Alberta iela and Elizabetes iela , and since 1997 they have been considered a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

In Alberta iela there is also the famous Riga Art Nouveau Center museum, the only museum in the Baltic countries dedicated to Art Nouveau. The museum is located in a building made entirely in the Art Nouveau style.

Who were the Italian architects who were proponents of Liberty and which were the main works?
art nouveau architecture raimondo d'aronco, palazzo aronco, udine

Also in Italy we have examples of Art Nouveau architecture . Compared to other European countries, Art Nouveau in Italy made its late arrival, only in 1902, at the International Exhibition of Modern Decorative Art in Turin.

This style has greatly influenced the architecture of cities such as Turin, Milan, Messina, Catania and Palermo, where we can still admire historic buildings in Art Nouveau style .

Among the Italian Art Nouveau architects who made the history of the Liberty style in Italy we can remember Raimondo D’Aronco , who between 1902 and 1903 created the pavilions for the International Exhibition of Modern Decorative Art in Turin and those for the Udine National Show.

One of the internationally known Italian names was that of Ernesto Basile , famous for designing interior design such as those of Villa Igiea, a historic luxury hotel in Palermo. Although from the outside the architecture is similar to that of a castle, in the garden and inside everything is done in the Art Nouveau style.

Among the other famous names who have created Art Nouveau architecture between Turin and Milan we remember:

The architect Pietro Fenoglio , who made his best known work in Turin, as well as one of the most famous Art Nouveau houses: Casa Fenoglio-Lafleur, one of the first examples of Liberty style in Italy.

Giovanni Battista Bossi who has his most famous work in the Galimberti House in Milan; Alfredo Campanini , who in Milan built Casa Campanini for his family and Ernesto Pirovano who in Milan built residential buildings such as Casa Verga, Casa Ferrario, Casa Bogani and Casa Mazzucchelli.