Art Nouveau flourished throughout Europe in the period around 1900.
Rather than limiting themselves to easel paintings, artists began to work as craftsmen, using their talent to design decorative artworks such as illustrations, posters, furniture, fans and crockery.
These served as an alternative to the run-of-the-mill mass-produced goods and flashy trinkets that dominated the market.
By designing even the most insignificant household items like works of art, they created an aesthetic living environment.
Elegant lines from nature
The most characteristic feature of Art Nouveau printmaking is its use of lines.
Artists frequently drew their arabesques from graceful elements in nature — a swan’s neck, for instance, or a flowering vine.
Their prints were filled with decorative female figures in elegant, serene poses.
Artists created a modern style by making their motifs abstract and creating a harmony of ornaments and patterns. This also enabled them to create a fantasy world, far removed from visible reality.
This decorative movement took its name from the opening of the gallery L’Art Nouveau by the visionary dealer Siegfried Bing in 1895. Bing’s gallery carefully combined paintings, prints, furniture and everyday objects to create aesthetic ensembles — he presented ‘the new art’ as a total experience.
Hans H. Hofstätter, Art Nouveau Prints, Illustrations and Posters, Ware 1984
Debora L. Silverman, Art Nouveau in Fin-de-Siècle France: Politics, Psychology and Style, The Hague 1989
Edwin Becker et al., De oorsprong van L'Art Nouveau: Het Bing imperium, tent.cat., Amsterdam 2004