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Introduction to Art Nouveau
Brussels, capital of Art Nouveau
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Introduction to

Art Nouveau

The arabesque, the floral or animal pattern and the feminine silhouette are the typical motifs of this international decorative style that emerged in Brussels around 1900.

This important artistically avant-gardist movement appeared, at the turn of the 20th century (1890-1914), in all of Europeís big cities as a reaction against the academic schools. Followers of the movement all subscribed to its underlying principle, namely that the essence of aesthetics should be sought in nature rather than ancient Classicist renditions.

First coined by some Belgian art critics as the 19th century drew to a close, the expression 'Art Nouveau' really began catching on internationally in Paris with the opening in 1895 of the art gallery Maison Art Nouveau by the famous German art dealer Siegfried Bing.

The essence of Art Nouveau is described by sensuous lines and subtle light, feminine figures and curly hair, fluent dresses and attitudes, vegetal curves and willow leaves, twisting waves and evanescent smoke, but also by controlled lines, geometric details, colorful new shapes and Art Nouveau was a new art form, an original artistic and decorative movement inspired by the idea of "total art".

The violent mutation created by the Industrial Revolution at the turn of the century led the way to all kind of new ideas, attempts and creative innovations in the fields of architecture and interior design, furniture and fabrics, glass and tableware, jewelry and perfume bottles, posters and wallpaper, textiles and lighting.

New materials were used and combined, such as metal and glass or wood, creating admirable objects and buildings.

Partly inspired by Japanese art which was changing the western attitude to Art (as painters as Monet, Gauguin, Van Gogh, Ensor, Munch, Matisse or Toulouse-Lautrec would later confirm), but also influenced by Celtic, Gothic and Rococo art, the leaders of Art Nouveau refused to continue to differentiate "lower applied and decorative art forms" and "higher fine arts". They wanted to create a modern way of life, to invent new shapes and free lines, where the structure and the decorative elements would form one unique work of art, a total and harmonious artistic environment Nature and Life were chosen as inspiring sources creating emotions and feelings in all forms of visual arts such as painting, architecture, decorative arts and graphic design, but also in literature with Baudelaire, Rilke, Hofmannsthal, D'Annunzio, Proust, Maeterlinck, Ibsen,... or in music with Debussy, Sibelius, Strauss and many others.

This explosion of senses and the return to nature was a pretext for a new concept of art and the first visual attempt of modernity.

All started in 1861... :
a short History of Art Nouveau

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