This week, contributor Allison Pan takes a deep dive into a style that has captured her attention of late – Art Nouveau.
Most art students and enthusiasts would not be unfamiliar with the movement known as Art Nouveau. It is not necessarily a welcome style, thanks in part to the overabundance of material that they had to go through on this topic, and because of its continuing ubiquity.
Art Nouveau literally means ‘New Art’ in French, and as a movement was arguably kickstarted by William Morris towards the end of the nineteenth century. For those who are not especially familiar with it, Art Nouveau is an art style that mimics nature. From the movement of flowers to the swaying of leaves, it is often symmetrical and makes use of a neutral colour palette, favouring greens, pinks, cream and brown. In simpler words, it is flowery, and rather ‘easy on the eyes.’
Originally an architectural style, to be found all over Europe from the Casa Batllo in Barcelona to the Glasgow School of Art in Scotland, it is everywhere. These buildings both have a strong physical presence and stand out from their mundane surroundings. My favourite is Hector Guimard’s work on Paris Metro entrances. To me it really seemed more like a creation from Poison Ivy in Batman. Stylised plants grow from the ground, gothic but at the same time quite magical, as if an entrance for one to enter another realm.
I’ve had a copy of The Kiss by Gustav Klimt hanging in my home for a long time, but never once have I given it much notice, perhaps because of the ubiquity of the painting that has led me to find it unexciting. But whilst doing research for this article I have realised that there are many details in this piece that are worth analysing. After all, it is one of the finest representations of Art Nouveau! In The Kiss only the face of the couple is shown clearly: all other space in the painting is either occupied by gold leaf or geometric shapes. The use of Art Nouveau is able to perfectly match and depict the nature of the kiss, which is tender and passionate, similar to the blooming of nature during springtime.
Having recently watched Louis Vuitton’s 2020SS ready-to-wear show, it reinforced my love of Art Nouveau and the soft romance that it exhales, perfectly revealing the softness of femininity in fashion. In this show ,the strength of femininity is displayed through tenderness in the lines of the patterns, along with bold and vibrant colours. This season’s use of Art Nouveau is a throwback to the ’70s, continuing the brand’s idea of travel. Instead of traveling between locations, the show has allowed us to travel through time.