he style called Art Nouveau was short lived yet exciting. Essentially, the period extended from 1890 to 1910. All of the decorative art forms of the time, from architecture to book illustrations were challenged by this exotic movement. Art Nouveau means modern style. It developed largely in the artist-rich cities of Western Europe: Paris, Vienna, Brussels, Glasgow, London, Munich and Barcelona. The United States participated eagerly as exemplified by stained glass artists such as Louis C. Tiffany and John Lafarge of New York.
The look of Art Nouveau was shocking to the people of the day, who had been steeped in varigated layers of Classically-based designs for many generations. Even the Victorian aggressive design innovations were in large part based upon age old traditional styles. This new Modern Style represented a break with “historicism.” Art Nouveau forged a new path for the Decorative Arts into the Twentieth Century, clearly the way for future forms of what came to be called ‘Modern Art.’
Art Nouveau artists chose their inspiration from different sources and interpreted them in different ways. Leaves, flowers and vines were represented as never before in art. Sinuous and sensuous lines were twined and intertwined in complex undulating patterns. These lines often represented a convergence of long curls of hair, flowing fabrics ,streams of water or overlapping vines and tendrils. The images created could be dreamlike and ethereal.
Two of the sources, aside from nature, that designers of this period drew from are Celtic motifs, with their seemingly-endless knot patterns, and Japanese art, with its sinuously drawn watery landscapes. A word that can be used to describe Art Nouveau design is “Organic.”