I recently (almost by chance) came across some beautiful Art Nouveau ad posters, real masterpieces produced between 1890 and 1910. I worked in advertising for many years so you can understand my enthusiasm after seeing these posters. Talented artists like Alphonse Mucha, Jules Chéret and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec – to name but a few – created a new art style that is forward looking, aesthetically beautiful and detailed, including soft contours, rich embellishments and vivid colors with nature as the main source of inspiration.
- Papier à Cigarettes & Benzo-Moteur by Jules Chéret. Called the “father of the modern poster”, Chéret was a French illustrator who adopted an innovative design approach.
- Bières de la Meuse & Bleu Deschamps by Alphonse Mucha, a Czech painter, illustrator and graphic artist known for his decorative panels, ads and illustrations. His design style is one of the most recognized representations of Art Nouveau style.
- Ambassadeurs by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, a talented French painter, printmaker, caricaturist and illustrator.
This led me to wanting to know more about Art Nouveau and see whether some of its features could be integrated in a contemporary interior design style (Like: Can I see this style in my own home?)
First, Let’s have a glance at the history of Art Nouveau.
Art Nouveau (New Art) lasted only about 20 years (1890-1914) as it disappeared by the start of World War 1 paving the way for the development of Art Deco in the 1920s.
Art Nouveau design was developed in Paris, Nancy, Brussels and Vienna as a reaction to mass production and industrialization. Artists aimed at highlighting authentic, skilled craftsmanship through many fields and areas of architecture, interior design, decorative arts, fashion, painting, illustration, sculptures, ceramic, glassware, silver, picture frames, lamps and jewelry.
The main characteristics of the Art Nouveau movement are the use of organic curved forms inspired by stems and blossoms of plants, detailed woodwork, ceiling moldings, wall treatments, patterned carpets, elaborate lighting fixtures, curvilinear shapes and decorative ornamentation.
A true representation of Art Nouveau design style can be experienced in the following historic locations:
Galeries Lafayette in Paris, the flagship store on Boulevard Haussman with its impressive steel-framed glass dome. (Photo source)
Paris metro entry designed by the architect Hector Guimard, one of the most significant figures of Art Nouveau design.
New York Yacht Club, designed by Whitney Warren, an American architect from l’Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris. (Photo source)
Jules lavirotte building in the 7th arrondissement in Paris built between 1899 and 1901 with its richly decorated façade.
Le Train Bleu restaurant located in the hall of Lyon railway station in Paris. (Photo source)
Now looking at interior design and decoration, this is (for me) a selection of the most aesthetic and integrative Art Nouveau design styles and elements from different parts of Europe and America.
The iconic Tiffany lamps, easily recognizable with their stained glass shades. If you are in New York, do not miss visiting the Tiffany gallery where you can enjoy 100 illuminated Tiffany lamps. The exhibition is just mesmerizing! While an original Tiffany lamp can be very expensive or just priceless -the ones on my board are available at incollect.com-, good replicas are available too. you can check Etsy.
Alphonse Mucha wall panels and prints seem to be available, however, my advice would be to make sure their quality is premium. Alphonse Mucha tiles are available at Stovax.
The blue chair is by Louis Majorelle. He was amongst the most celebrated of the Art Nouveau designers. The chair is upholstered in a striped blue velvet fabric.
The white chair is designed by Edouard Colonna, one of the designers commissioned by Siegfried Bing to design furniture for his gallery L´Art Nouveau in Paris. Available here.
The beautiful glass lamp with a brass base is my favorite piece in this selection. Originally from Austria, it is now available here at about 2000 USD.
I believe the design theme truly captures the essence of Art Nouveau with its glass dome, stained glass wall panels and the use of olive green. Contrasting this is the use of Art deco furniture, light fixtures and textures elegantly highlighting the beauty of the Art Nouveau features.
The contrasting styles and colors work perfectly. The result is not only spectacular but it also successfully revamps Art Nouveau, highlights its unique artistic qualities and provides a fusion of style I am looking for in a contemporary interior.
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Inass M. Jenner
- A history of interior design, John Pile & Judith Gura.
- Gallery of Tiffany Lamps.