Art Nouveau and Art Deco

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  • History of Architecture (AP313) | Term Paper | 2014

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    Art Nouveau and Art Deco

    Term Paper for History of Architecture (AP131)

    Varsha Mallya

    Roll Number: 29

    Sushant School of Art and Architecture


    This paper discusses the decline of the arts and crafts movement and how the art

    nouveau rose and developed as the artisan got tired of being a slave to foreign

    fashion, taste, and art. (4) and desired to develop a new form of decorative art that

    represents its independence, and also discusses how the art deco came about and

    its influences.


    Arts and Crafts Movement (1850-1900)

    Rise of the Arts and Crafts Movement

    The Arts and Crafts Movement was a response to the industrial revolution. Thomas

    James Cobden-Sanderson was the first person to coin the word arts and craft

    movement. (2) According to him, this movement can be associated with the

    movement of ideas which have characteristics of the past and be defined by art

    where human activity of all kinds expresses itself at its highest and best.(2)

    The main aim of the Arts and Crafts movement was to re-establish the harmony

    between architect, designer and crafts man and bring hand craftsmanship to the

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    production of well-designed everyday objects. Arts and Crafts Movement was

    promoted simple items manufactured through good craft techniques. It was a

    rebellion against the age of mass production. It is actually a return to traditional

    craft methods and romantic forms of decoration. Ornamental objects, floral

    fabrics, book making, weaving, jewellery, metalwork and ceramics, were all

    influenced by the Art and Crafts movement.

    Decline of the Arts and Crafts Movement

    Despite its high ideals, the Arts and Crafts Movement was essentially flawed.

    Though Morris wanted his products to be available to the ordinary people the

    labour-intensive products could only be afforded by the privileged classes.

    Art Nouveau

    Rise of Art Nouveau (1890-1910)

    The term Art Nouveau was coined from and art gallery in Paris, called Maison de

    l'Art Nouveau (House of New Art) which was run by a French dealer Siegfried Bing.


    It is believed that art nouveau also known as New Art sprang from a major

    movement in decorative arts spread across Western Europe in the year 1892. But its

    birth was not believed to be spontaneous. The interiors in the 19th century were a

    complete mix of styles to characterize the homeownership in the Victorian age. The

    machines were used to manufacture the period castoffs to meet the decorating

    whims of the upper-class and the expanding bourgeoisie. What do we see on

    every side? Wallpapers which wound the eye; against them , ornate furniture that

    wounds the eye ; at intervals gaudily draped bay which wounds the eye ; and every

    spare and nook and cranny is hung with plates of spinach with decorative borders

    which wound the eye, let the eye come to terms with all this as best it can. (2)

    People started to tire of the repetitive decorative clichs, the eternal imitation of

    furniture from the reign of monarchs, or from the renaissance and the gothic

    period.(4) Jean Lahor describes in his book, that people (outside of France) desired

    for a change and they no longer wanted to be slave to foreign fashion, taste, and

    art. After the end of the Ancien Regime, every country tried to represent its

    independence through literature and art. (4)

    There was an immediate need to revamp decorative style. Decorative art flourished

    through ages; nearly everything had a decorative finish, everything from fabric to

    walls to domestic items such as tea cups. At the end of the 19th century, people

    started having complete indifference towards decorative elegance and beauty. (4)

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    It was not until the 1889 universal Exposition, did the Art Nouveau movement gain

    a pace. All the items displayed in this Exposition led to the formation of a

    decorative revolution. The unfolding of Art Nouveau's flowing line may be

    understood as a metaphor for the freedom and release sought by its practitioners

    and admirers from the weight of artistic tradition and critical expectations. (5).

    Trying to be free from the prejudice of high art. The Art nouveau could be

    considered as a protest against the traditional decorative art by using straight and

    simplistic lines or by using sinuous, curving lines, sometimes right-angled forms

    were also used. (5)

    Art Nouveau embraced all forms of art and design: architecture, furniture,

    glassware, graphic design, jewelry, painting, pottery, metalwork, and textiles. This

    was a sharp contrast to the traditional separation of art into the distinct categories

    of fine art -painting and sculpture and applied arts- ceramics, furniture .(5)

    Arthur Heygate Mackmurdo (1851-1942) was an English architect; craftsman was

    one of the few people who initiated the Art Nouveau Movement. His designs had

    linear simplicity and asymmetrical compositions which were rendered in contrasting

    colours. (3) The Chair designed by him in the year 1882 could be considered one of

    the earliest examples of Art Nouveau. (5)

    When artists started to reject the limitations of the Arts and Crafts ideals, they

    started to positively embrace the techniques of industrial manufacturing. It was

    mainly due to William Morris and Ruskin that the Art Nouveau came into fashion in

    England. William Morris was the one, who challenged the mid Victorian aesthetic

    values and how it affects the society as a whole. (2). The British Art Nouveau artists

    and designers shared the same dedication and principals as William Morris. To

    these principles they experimented with new forms and materials. (5)

    In Maison de l'Art Nouveau, Bing displayed not only paintings and sculpture but also

    ceramics, furniture, metalwork, and Japanese art. Sections of the gallery were

    devoted to model rooms that artists and architects designed in the art nouveau

    style. (5)

    Art Deco

    Rise of Art Deco (1925-1940)

    The Art Nouveau movement was at its peak in the beginning of the 20th century.

    An exhibition called the Exposition Internationale des Arts Dcoratifs et

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    Industriels Modernes was planned and supposed to be held in the years between

    1912-1915. But, due to the World War I that raged throughout the world from

    1914 to 1918, this exhibition was postponed by nearly 10 years (7).

    In the year 1925, an exposition called the -Exposition Internationale des Arts

    Dcoratifs et Industriels Moderneswas held at Le Musee des Arts Decoratifs in

    Paris. The purpose of this exposition was to display the modern industrial

    decorative arts at an international platform which were produced by artists from

    different countries. The displayed works were both individual crafted luxury

    items and mass produced wares. (6)

    The name Art Deco was derived from: Exposition Internationale des Arts

    Dcoratifs et Industriels Modernes. (6) The exhibition that was held was not

    universal as it did not affect all human activities. You can say every country tried

    to depict its nationalism through its products. The exhibitions displayed works of

    21 nations, (7) the United States did not participate as the U.S. Secretary of

    Commerce - Herbert Hoover discouraged participation , instead he sent team of

    experts learn and adapt the designs displayed the exhibition to the American

    architectural expression. (8)

    In the beginning of the 20th century, there were many discoveries as well as new

    inventions made. In the year 1923, Howard Carter and his associates discovered

    King Tutankhamens tomb. In the era where people believed and relied on

    scientific facts and being rational, they were unable to explain the demise of

    Howard Carter and his associates and the curse associated with the tomb. These

    controversies lead people to have a sudden interest in Egyptian motifs such as

    hieroglyphics, pyramidal shape, scarabs etc. All of which we can see in many

    products such as jackets, fabrics, also as relief work on building that were made

    during this period.

    Fig 1: Hand-beaded lurex jacket with Egyptian motifs, Paris, France, 1922-25. Source:

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    Bevis Hillier states that- Art Decos ultimate aim was to end the age old conflict

    between art and industry, the old snobbish distinction between artist and artisan,

    partly by making artists adept at crafts, but still more by adapting design to the

    requirement of mass production.

    The sinuous, curving lines that were used during the Art nouveau are no longer

    seen. The buildings that were made during that Art Deco were very geometric

    and angular, having a streamlined finish decorated with motifs ranging from

    hieroglyphics, scarabs, cartouches to cars or machinery that depicted the

    machine age.

    Fig 2: Empress Theatre (Montreal) decorated with hieroglyphics

    and cartouches.


    One example of an art deco building is the Coca-Cola Building built in the year

    1939 by architect Robert V. Derrah. The building with a streamline appearance

    resembles a ship with portholes, catwalk and a bridge from five existing industrial

    buildings in 1939. (9)

    Fig 3: Coca-Cola Building



    The Chrysler Building built by William Van Alen in the year 1930 in New York, one of

    many examples of Art Deco buildings. It was one of the first buildings composed of

    stainless steel over a large exposed surface. (8) The architect, drawing inspiration

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    from the machine age used eagle hood ornaments, hubcaps and abstract images of

    cars as ornamental details on the Chrysler Building.

    Fig 4: The spire is modelled on a radiator grille.


    Fig 4: Gargoyle sculpture made out of metal.


    This Movement, Art Deco that followed At Nouveau would eventually come together

    and lead to the advent of modernism and the foundation of the Bauhaus School of

    Art and Design built by Walter Gropius. Walter Gropius wanted to alter art, crafts

    and architecture to meet the needs of an industrial society where arts and craft

    mold and unify with technology.

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    1. Cumming, Elizabeth and Kaplan, Wendy. The Arts and Crafts Movement. London :

    Thames and Hudson, 1991. ISBN 0-500-20248-6.

    2. Thomas James Cobden-Sanderson. The Arts and Crafts Movement.

    3. Duncan, Alastair. Art Nouveau. London : Thames and Hudson, 1999. ISBN 0-500-


    4. Lahor, Jean. Art Nouveau

    5. [Online]

    6. [Online]

    7. [Online]


    .htm [Online]



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