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I’m sure you’ve noticed it too. Art Nouveau is back! 

After World War I, Art Nouveau died a quiet death. It witnessed a brief revival during the 1960s* with, unfortunately, no lasting effect. This time however, I have a hunch it’s going to be much bigger. I have been on this Journey into Art Nouveau since 2012, and I can see the number of books, the number of exhibitions and guided tours, the number of tweets and Facebook pages about Art Nouveau increase by the month. Excellent!

* I wrote a story about that Art Nouveau revival in the 1960s and you can read it here.


Posters of Recent Art Nouveau Exhibitions

When, how and why did Art Nouveau emerge?

But why? I can hear you ask. Well, I believe people are getting more interested in Art Nouveau again because they want, no they need beautiful things around them to survive the current life we are living.

industrial revolution dirty cities

In the 19th century, factories were built in the middle of cities and ordinary people were working and living under the filthy-est of conditions. The working class had little money to spend… and they spent it on cheap mass-produced goods. Art Nouveau developed at the end of that 19th century as a reaction to the ugliness of this (secondIndustrial Revolution and it’s most important result: mass production.


William Morris

John Ruskin and William Morris’ Arts & Crafts movement was convinced that the general decline of artistic standards brought on by industrialization was linked to the nation’s social and moral decline. They pleaded to raise the status of craft, and produce genuine ‘modern’ design. Craftsmen in other countries followed shortly. According to the philosophy of these young craftsmen, art should be a way of life; every man and every woman deserved to be surrounded by beautiful things.

The Art Nouveau movement that emerged a little later in Europe, embraced architecture, graphic art, interior design, and most of the decorative arts including jewellery, furniture, textiles, household silver and other utensils and lighting, as well as the fine arts. The result was the so-called total-work-of-art or Gesamtkunstwerk, a building and its interior in which every element partook of the same visual vocabulary.

Interior Casa Navas Fireplace

Interior Casa Navas, Reus, a true total-work-of-art

In the mean time, the same industrialisation had caused a new middle class with nearly unlimited funds to emerge. This wealthy bourgeoisie, eager to outrival the refined nobility as well as each other, was happy to pay extra for the best possible materials and craftsmanship. And – of course – artists and designers didn’t hesitate to emphasize the exclusivity of their work; surrounded by beautiful objects, the middle class was living the life. Flip side of the coin was that Art Nouveau became extremely expensive, and unaffordable for the ordinary man. Socially, Art Nouveau failed to comply with its own philosophy.

Industrialisation and mass-production

Today, I feel that we find ourselves in similar ‘dark’ circumstances: Industrialisation is everywhere, we are surrounded by cheap mass-produced goods, global warming is threatening our planet, there are wars everywhere… and I see people turning ‘inside’. Home cooking instead of eating out. Trips to the museum instead of trips abroad. DIY and Interior Design magazines flourish and even knitting is hip! Like we are beginning to realise that we need quality rather than quantity. ‘Made in China’ doesn’t do it anymore and slowly but steadily, crafts are being rehabilitated.

A few of my favorite examples of this trend, where we go back to appreciating traditional crafts again, are on Etsy, Oberon Design, Crowdfunding and Shapeways.

My feelings are being confirmed by other people in the art scene. Just recently, I read a very inspiring article – Collecting Art for Love, Not Money – in the New York Times Style Magazine, by Gully Wells. The article starts with the statement that A purer form of connoisseurship – for pleasure, not profit – is on the rebound. According to Wells, it doesn’t take money but a deep and abiding sense of passion, a hunger for knowledge and an infallible eye for quality, to define a true connoisseur. I totally agree.

Now, that was about our generation collecting original Art Nouveau. But there’s also a contemporary generation of artists creating new ‘Art Nouveau’. Here are some of the most spectacular Art Nouveau-inspired works I came across recently.

CalmWater Designs - Stephanie Young

CalmWater Designs by Stephanie Young


Butterfly Chair by Eduardo Garcia Campos

Art Nouveau Villa by Oleg Karlson

Art Nouveau Villa by Oleg Karlson

And what about this passionate artist: Matt Hughes is currently working on a gold leafed Art Nouveau Tarot Deck and accompanying Colouring Book… Isn’t he amazing?!?

Art-Nouveau_Disney_Princess_Jasmina Art-Nouveau_Disney_Tinkerbell Art-Nouveau_Japanese_Manga

Dozens of graphic artists are designing playing cards and posters inspired by Mucha, and there are graffiti artists that decorate complete buildings in Mucha-style… Just google Mucha Street Art, and you’ll be amazed to see how these young artists are transforming (often ugly) buildings into eye-candy!

One segment where I have not seen any Art Nouveau reappearing yet is interior design. Now, I know I can only speak for the situation in The Netherlands, but I believe this isn’t any different in other countries: if you want to (re-)decorate your home in Art Nouveau style, you’ll not find it easy to locate the materials you need.

art_nouveau_freeze art_nouveau_freeze art_nouveau_freeze

But I have found a solution for that: You may know that my husband and I bought our own Art Nouveau house a couple of years ago and we are fastidiously restoring it. Since 2012 I have been searching the world-wide web for materials to decorate our home in style once the plumbers and plasterers leave the premises. And I am not unhappy. I have been able to located a dozen craftsmen and small factories that produce the correct materials; wallpaper, carpets, fabrics, stained glass, tiles, hardware accessories and lighting. Extremely hard to find, but it’s all there! To help other owners of Art Nouveau properties, I started my own company: maisonartnouveau.nl. I am now importing beautiful, often handmade materials, and helping others with their period decorating. I would love to hear what you think!?

Being a devoted admirer, I sincerely hope this trend will continue and more initiatives will develop. Maybe this time – as this goal was not achieved the first time around – every man and every woman can indulge in the beauty of Art Nouveau.

Continue Reading:
Artyfactory.com – William Morris
Christies: Why Art Nouveau is back in vogue
Nancy: why is Art Nouveau more and more popular?
The Art Story – Art Nouveau
The New York Times Style Magazine
Will We Fall Back In Love With Sexy, Slinky Art Nouveau? (Forbes)