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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 19
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 20
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 20
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.

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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]
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