Sunday, February 11, 2007

Art Nouveau & Vienna Secession: United States

Art Nouveau in America was a time when iridescent colors, floral motifs, naturalistic forms, bold accessories and ornamentation dominated; as well as elaborate wall and window decoration. However, unlike styles before, Art Nouveau was slightly simpler but still highly decorated. The introduction of the Art Nouveau style in the United States is credited to two well known designers; Louis Tiffany, and Louis Sullivan. These designers took a long leap away from norms of classicism and were inspired by both the Arts and Crafts movement, and the decorative arts. Tiffany founded his own glass company and became internationally known for his intricate stained glass patterns, often showing relation to nature and the four seasons. He also popularized lamp design by adding metal bases to lamp frames, and glass shades. However, Tiffany's designs could no longer hold the majority of the public's interest.
Louis Sullivan is often referred to as "The Pioneer of Modernism,"because he was the most successful when it came to stepping away from the roots of antiquity. He worked a lot with public spaces such as hotel lobbies, stairways, stores, and auditoriums. Sullivan was a master of acoustical application; a prime example would be his Auditorium Building in Chicago. He also spent a great deal of his time studying skyscraper design, and focusing on how to add decorative aspects to verticality. The Schlesinger & Mayer Department Store in Chicago was one of Sullivan's most clever designs because his use of a grid pattern on the outside facade. Horizontal lines divided floors and vertical lines colonized windows. This itself was a brave approach to modern design. Like many others, Sullivan's work became less admired. He experienced disagreement with clients while working on St. Paul's Methodist Church because of finances. In his late career he designed small banks and employed great American architect Frank Lloyd Wright. His book, "A System of Architectural Ornament," is still used today by modern architects.
It's been argued that even though Art Nouveau was a down play from previous styles, it was still too excessive and overly decorated. Art Nouveau has been accused of poor taste and unnecessary decor. In your opinion, how important is architectural ornamentation and how does it affect you. Are you drawn to ornamental decor or are you not so interested, explain why. Also, was an Art Nouveau movement in the United States necessary?

Source: Pile, John. "A History of Interior Design" 2nd edition. 2005

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This blog is intended for the interior design students in the college of design at the University of Kentucky. It was created with the intent to present students with information, providing them with a channel for contemplation and discussion.