Okay … I have a confession to make. I’m a writer of sorts … freelance mostly. Its not like my day job but something I do when I’m not searching for stuff to sell to … well to folk who have lots of money to spend.
The following is all my own work. So wish I could illustrate it with images, but like I said …
The Art Nouveau period was a brief decade and a half from 1890 to about 1905 yet this belies its importance. The sinuous swirls and flourishes that characterised it vanished rapidly at the beginning of the 20th century. Yet the stress on the importance of design and the development of artists as designers continues to influence the appearance of the everyday world.
The greatest piece of architectural Art Nouveau to be found anywhere is the famous and daring creation for the 1889 Paris Exhibition … the Eiffel Tower.
The artistic expression of life in the 19th century gave birth to Art Nouveau … new art in every sense of the word. As early as 1884 two Belgium lawyers Octave Maus and Edmond Picard coined the phrase, even so its origins can be traced to Britain. But the 1890’s saw the evolving in France of Art Nouveau and this was particularly so in Paris and Nancy.
In Britain only Liberty and the famous Mackintosh furniture can compare with the originality of the French and other European designs. Personally I don’t like the furniture of this period probably because it is so prohibitively expensive and in my opinion very little of it is worth the prices being asked.
To me it is in the design and manufacture of glass, decorative sculptures and jewellery where the true beauty of the Art Nouveau period can be found.
The Frenchman Emile Galle was considered a master craftsman even in his own lifetime and his cameo glass is the most beautiful ever produced. The Daum brothers August & Antonin were rivals to Galle but were never able to produce the extraordinarily beauty in their work that Galle’s creations had. Nevertheless cameo glass vases and lamps by either of these master craftsmen are sought after and very very valuable.
Tiffany rivalled Galle as a craftsman in glass and his method of selling was idiosyncratic so say the least, Tiffany lamps for example were never sold to retailers and every piece remained his property until sold. Anything not sold after three months was returned to the factory and Tiffany would either give it to a friend or it was destroyed despite their selling price of $750 which in the 1900’s was a small fortune All Tiffany leaded glass lampshades carry a small copper tab soldered to the inside at the bottom of the rim bearing the words “Tiffany Studios New York,” while lamp bases made before 1900 have the monogram TGDCo and a serial number.
However in my opinion it is in the field of jewellery that the real beauty and splendour of Art Nouveau can be seen. The great revolutionary designer of this type of jewellery was Rene Lalique. His designs were totally uninhibited and broke with traditional rules of design…
His jewellery in gold, enamels and metallic paint on ivory and hung with baroque pearls are among the most beautiful ever created. “Eve,” a pendant designed in 1901 by Philippe Wolfe with opals, diamonds, emeralds and pearls set in gold is a creation that is breathtakingly beautiful.
Art Nouveau has a dedicated following around the world and today it is an extremely popular collecting style that is no longer “that strange curious style our continental friends enjoy” as it was called when it first appeared on the scene!
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