Sunday, October 4, 2009

Art Nouveau: Europe

Art Nouveau: Europe - Applicable Arts and Crafts

As the Arts and Craft movement was struggling to catch on in America, Art Nouveau was developing in Europe, most notably in France and Belgium. While Art Nouveau shares the same values of naturalistic forms and functional design as the Arts and Crafts movement, Art Nouveau embraces the machine to make design affordable. It’s forms are typically associated with swirling linear styles in posters, furniture, and applied decoration in nineteenth century Europe, but can also be seen in a variety of architecture (Raizman, 80).

At the time of Morris death in 1896, Henry van de Velde was applying his ideas of craftsmanship and function to help create Art Nouveau. On one hand van de Velde agreed that every element of a design should be functional, on the other hand he often argued that well supervised mass production could make design more accessible (Gorman, 47). This approach helped Art Nouveau bridge the gap between the old man-made century and the new century of technology.

In Hector Guimard’s entranceways to the then, new metro system in Paris, plant forms like tendrils and flowers in cast iron were used to create a dramatic feeling. His concept draws upon Arts and Crafts reference to nature but makes it modern through the use of cast iron. Depending on the angle of view, the ornamentation takes on a new meaning. This is a key element of Art Nouveau, every line has a meaning instead of being strict ornamentation (Taschen, 22).

This can also be seen in van de Velde’s kidney bean inspired desk. The form of the desk fits an owner’s outstretched arms and spread out work while using a candlestick holder for light. The shelves are continuous off set lines which help create the overall effect of the kidney bean, thus again the ornamentation is helping to create the desk (Taschen, 23).

In Scotland Charles Mackintosh designed interiors that took advantage of prefabrication.

While he believed in industries, he also believed it was the responsibility of the designer to use the products in inventive ways (Raizman, 91). In the Library of the Glasgow School of Art Mackintosh used constructed vertical and horizontal beams to create the rhythms of Celtic art, floral, and vegetable forms (Raizman, 91).This can also be seen in van de Velde’s kidney bean inspired desk. The form of the desk fits an owner’s outstretched arms and spread out work while using a candlestick holder for light. The shelves are continuous off set lines which help create the overall effect of the kidney bean, thus again the ornamentation is helping to create the desk (Taschen, 23).

Since Art Nouveau was predominately targeted at the middle class, inexpensive poster designs were created to advertise entertainment. Instead of the traditional form of a poster, which had a picture in the middle with text at the bottom or top, Art Nouveau posters were massive in scale and integrated the text with the picture. In Manuel Orazio’s poster for Loie Fuller he incorporates a naked women covered in sheer fabric and flowers (Raizman, 88). This portrays a theme of metamorphosis and also relates back to Art Nouveau reference to naturalistic forms.

Art Nouveau began with a specific idea and evolved into many applications. Art Nouveau designs will continue to be used in the nineteenth century, from Antoni Gaudi to Victor Horta. While expressive transformation of nature can be seen through out, the movement was overall heterogeneous (Raizman,, 91). Through the different applications do you thing Art Nouveau successfully carried out its goal of simplifying forms (often through nature) but using mass production? Did the influence of technology create ornamentation again? In what ways today do we depend upon technology to “decorate” our buildings? Is it successful or do we need to once again draw upon history with man made craftsmanship?

(Verlag, Benedikt T. Art Nouveau. Hohenzollernright: Tashen, 2007. Print.)


meagan_mckee said...

Art Nouveau is by far one of my most favorite design eras or design themes. The graphic representation during this time reached some of its most interesting forms and designs.

As for Melissa's questions, I do feel that the Art Nouveau movement succeeded in simplifying ornamentation via a naturalistic-elements-inspired approach. I believe that many of the designs were forward thinking and it made out of 'today's materials,' would actually be quite modern in style (i.e. the Metro entrances by Guimard or the kidney bean desk).

I feel we use machinery to help decorate buildings because we spend less time on specifics. Instead of tirelessly painting a mural in a chapel by hand, we use wallpaper to cover bare walls or explain that the church is about minimalism and paint it in solid colors of some sort. There is less attention paid to the 'hands-on' aspect of construction and more on how soon the project can be completed. I still think there needs to be a find line drawn between using machinery wisely and using it to compensate for 'laziness' (ck of better word...).

Clay Moran said...

In response to the question posed by Melissa, I think there is a definite understanding of natural forms through the Art Nouveau style. Compared to the ornate, over-the-top Victorian style, it’s clearly simplified. In contrast with the Arts and Crafts movement’s tendency toward natural materials however, Art Nouveau employed much more iron, steel, glass, etc., again pulling in the influence of technology and mass production, and to a certain extent even the idea of pre-fabrication. So yes, I think goals of form simplification while using mass production were achieved. I don’t know though, that I think the machine was used for decoration. I think advantage was taken of the machine’s capacity to reproduce copious amounts of a single design, and possible that designs were somewhat catered to the ability of those machines. But I feel the naturalistic lines and shapes cannot be contributed to technology when they take such clear inspiration from nature.
Looking at today’s constructions and their ornamentation my first thought is that it’s more likely nowadays to see a building that is made to be its own decoration. The forms of buildings are more and more sculptural, more creative, and the boundary of feasibility is forever changing. So in that sense we definitely rely on both the technology of the machine and of new materials to help create such forms. As for the decoration on less obvious forms, I think the machine comes in with an ability to produce repetition and rigidity. No longer is it important to have the effect of a hand painted design along a surface or a hand carved pattern repeated. The machine has the capability to produce perfectly symmetrical or identical or neatly spaced entities with minimal effort from man. As for the success of this method, I certainly don’t think there’s anything wrong with it. At the rate this world moves, and the always-growing expectation for instant gratification I think that a timely erection of aesthetically pleasing buildings is necessary. That being said, I hope we are never a society that truly loses appreciation for the value and quality of anything created by the hand of man

kengelman said...

I do believe that Art Nouveau simplified forms. Even though there was a lot of decorative ornamentation in Art Nouveau design it was more refined and modern than the ornamentation during the Victorian style. The ornamentation done throughout the Art Nouveau style was simplified because it wasn't using a million different patterns and textures like the Victorians. Often it was decoration made out of iron or metal and it was usually taken from nature. It was very curvilinear and organic. I would consider Art Nouveau refined elegance.

I think that in today's world we do rely on technology to decorated our buildings. Similar to what Meagan said we now use machines to make carpets and wallpapers where people without technology might have woven rugs or painted a mural in their house. We want the most simple and fastest ways to get decoration in our houses. There is even new technologies for painting a simple room. There is that tube thing that you can hook to the can and your brush so you never have to stop and get paint. I think these ways are successful but they take away meaning from the decoration. When someone would paint a mural on their wall that would take days or even months they would cherish that mural and never let anything happen to it. Now when we just throw some wallpaper or paint on a wall it has no emotional connection we can cover it up like it didn't even exist. I think in some instances it would be better to do somethings by hand. You would appreciate your work more and take care of it in the long run. I also think this would help with some of the laziness in our culture today.

jmboga2 said...

I feel like the art nouveau stands out so much above other design eras, in the recognizable feminine lines that look as if they grew out of nature. I think it was more successful that what it was given credit for in the big picture, and to answer the question, yes, I think it was successful in simplifying the forms. But in my opinion. products were still made with a strong sense of line that was delicate and beautiful, not the harsh lines that would be expected to come out of mass production. I don't think technology influenced this style, however i think it was able to be used in a symbiotic way that aided in the creation of this beautiful ornamentation, but did not solely create it alone. Today, we use machines for decoration purposes in the form itself. Buildings today take on so many shapes and sizes, that when said and done, just the exterior itself (in some cases) is the ornamentation. There is a definite line between man made and machine made ornamentation and decoration, and I feel anything made by machine is no comparison for the labor and dedication but into hand made products. However, machines still create wonderful ways to mimic what used to be done by man himself, with no other choice. At times I feel as if we rely on machinery to speed a process up, when in history, the things noted as most worthy are the things that had time put into them. Machinery has taken off and became the main resource for creation so when hand made items are brought up in class and discussed, my appreciation shows much more. I would have liked for this period to have lasted longer, for it was beautiful and inspirational.

Betty said...

Meagan, I am with you on the love affair with Art Nouveau. The jewelry, in particular, is so beautiful to me.

I see the use of ornamentation and depiction of forms in Art Nouveau as an incremental step toward abstraction. Victorian and Modern design provide two ends of a continuum with regards to ornamentation. Victorian design employed realistic depiction of forms. Modernism eliminated ornamentation entirely. The stylized forms of Art Nouveau are somewhere in between, arguably on the Victorian side of center. The next step would come post-WWI from Machine Age Design. The abstraction and geometric motifs of this period in design would march closer to what we now call Modernism.

I believe Art Nouveau did successfully use stylized forms. I believe it was a significant, albeit brief, step forward in design. Art Nouveau design made the harsh, clunky materials of glass, iron and steel delicate and appealing. It was instrumental in building people's acceptance of these materials, making them a beautiful, normal... and dare I say "natural" component of our built environment. It accomplished this feat while rejecting historical architectural precedent and, instead, relying on the familiar forms of nature. The depiction of "living" forms -- plant or animal life -- in Art Nouveau design, hint at an effort breathe life into these harsh, cold materials of the Industrial Revolution.

Today's buildings are much less ornamented than at the turn of the century. Ideas of Modernism are still at work in commercial building. There are some methods of decoration that do exist today, and they are still closely linked to technology, in my opinion. I think of the huge screens outside of CNN Headquarters in Atlanta that show current news, upcoming events, and advertising, all at the speed of light. I think of Times Square, Images of Tokyo and Hong Kong streets. These are decorative installations, today’s building embellishment. Many are edgy and captivating.

It is easy to get caught up in the excitement of new technology and lose focus on using it toward a desired end versus just using it. I believe we have serious quality problems with what we are manufacturing, not to mention sustainability problems. I still don't think the solution is to dial things back to pre-Industrial Revolution methods. We live in a supply and demand based system. To improve supply we have to demand a better product. How we do that as a society at large, though, is beyond me.

Jenna Martini said...

Did Art Nouveau successfully carry out its goal of simplifying forms (often through nature) but using mass production? I believe in fact the design time frame did. The specific lines were chosen specifically for design purposes, not just for ornamentation. Yes, massive production was used to create lines and elements faster, but also more sufficiently. Even with mass production, the design is carried out simplistically.

As for did technology create ornamentation? I believe in a way it did, but with or without technology, the simplistic ornamentation could have been grasped and founded. The machinery certainly benefited the production of simplistic ornamentation, but either way this would have came about.

Today, we depend upon technology to “decorate” our buildings through the mere production of all fixtures of interiors as well as the buildings themselves. Sure, technology is the backbone to all design today, but do we need to once again draw upon history with man made craftsmanship? I believe not, due to the mere fact design has opened a new whirlpool of ideas based on the abilities technology has given us. Design is what it is today because of technology and although looking back on man made craftsmanship may bring back a new world of ideas; it certainly would bring about more expensive products due to the time it would take in creating these products. I say stick to modern day technology to create new designs.

Vinti said...

The Art Nouveau Style definitely takes on the simplistic approach and inspiration from nature from the Arts and Crafts Movement. However, it is an interesting contrast to the Arts and Crafts style in the way lines are used. In using the curvilinear lines, the Art Nouveau brought back some ornamentation that was lost as a reaction to the excessiveness of the Victorian Era. Yet, this new ornamentation was simpler and more original and elegant than it had ever been.

Henri Van de Velde’s ideologies are a clear representation of the Art Nouveau: all design should have reason/rationale behind it, and mass production should be encouraged to make one design available to many people. The number of people using a design, reflects the success of the designer. Technology certainly played a big role in production methods and use of modern materials during Art Nouveau.

The use of technology to “decorate” our present day buildings brings to my mind the images of Times Square and CNN headquarters, like Betty pointed out. It seems to me that the function for which these buildings are designed, are reflected in the fast growing technology and real-time information that is displayed on the facades of these buildings. I think information technology plays a huge role in modern day decoration of exteriors as well as interiors.

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.