The Art Nouveau movement, which emerged in a period marked by the development of industry and the experimentation with new materials, opposed historicism, favoring originality and a return to handicrafts. In this context, it is portrayed as an attempt at dialogue between art and industry, re-evaluating beauty and making it available to everyone through serial production.
Art Nouveau, in effect between 1880 and 1920, was born in Belgium – outside the artistic avant-garde circuit – and was inspired by nature with the sinuous and asymmetrical lines of flowers and animals. Its application reverberated especially in the design of interiors, products, fabrics, clothing, jewelry and accessories. As for the architecture itself, the “materials of the modern world” such as iron, glass and cement are considered allied to the praise of the rationality of science and engineering. Qualities denoting care with the idea of industrialization by the bourgeoisie.
Although Art Nouveau developed in different ways in the regions where it was inserted, some features predominate in the works of that period, such as the use of organic forms; of asymmetrical lines; the care with aesthetics and with the decorative elements; presence of stained glass windows and mosaics and structures inspired by Rococó and Baroque.
Within architecture, one of the most famous exponents is the Catalan Antoni Gaudí who, despite associating Art Nouveau with other movements such as the Gothic Revival, can perceive in his projects the prevalence of natural, asymmetrical and round shapes, with clear inspiration in nature, as is the case with Casa Batlló. In it, the architect explores spaciousness, patterns and flowing colours, resulting in a volume that abruptly contrasts with the rigid environment. These bold forms by Gaudí represent the essence of Art Nouveau, characterized by innovative and unusual creations, so much so that in literal translation it means “new art”.
Besides him, other architects became representatives of the movement, such as the Belgian Victor Horta and his houses built for the elite, consisting of carefully crafted iron balconies and capitals that take on plant-like forms, or the Scotsman Charles Mackintosh who developed a trend identified by Art Nouveau as ” more elegant” is considered with the Glasgow School of Art project with a more abstract and geometric design.
While the length of the Art Nouveau artistic movement is considered ephemeral, its historical importance has had an inverse weight, today understood as a fundamental moment of transition between historicism and modernism. In this sense, the movement became a synonym of sophistication and lightness in the fields of art and architecture, combining the decorativism of winding forms with everyday utilitarianism.