The Most Notable Art Nouveau Artists

Back in the 19thcentury where classical and historical styles were popular, an art movement started to modernize art designs. This movement is called “Art Nouveau.” It was also known by various names such as the Glasgow Style, or, in the German-speaking world, Jugendstil. 

Seeking to escape the eclectic historical styles, artists of this movement drew inspiration from natural elements like flowers or insects, and also geometric patterns and curves. The use of intense colors was a common theme too. This movement was also committed to abolishing the notion that liberal arts like painting and sculpture are superior to craft-based decorative arts. 

Art Nouveau’s influence reached far beyond the classic artworks. In fact, most artworks are found in opaque naturalistic glassware, carved furniture, decorative arts like door handles, chairs, chandeliers, and wallpapers, and even advertising materials like posters. In general, Art Nouveau is considered a significant predecessor to Modernism.

Below are some of the most notable artists specializing in decorative art, architecture, and glass work which this movement has produced.

Gustav Klimt

Austrian painter Gustav Klimt founded the school of painting known as Vienna Sezession. He specialized in the execution of mural paintings, the most controversial was the one he made for the ceiling of the University of Vienna. 

The Kiss by Gustav Klimt
The Kiss by Gustav Klimt

Klimt was known for erotic symbolism. His most successful work is his painting (oil on canvas), “The Kiss.” In this work, he highlighted the lush sensuality of the human figure by surrounding it with brilliant ornamental decoration. This painting is considered a leading example of the Art Nouveau movement. 

Antoni Gaudí i Cornet

Antoni Gaudi’s works as an architect were predominant in Barcelona. His style is mostly inspired by nature and Catholic faith, characterized by curved lines and vibrant surfaces. His notable works include the balconies of Casa Mila which resemble leaves and blades of grass and the benches in Parc Güell which was designed like a human spine. 

La Sagrada Familia
La Sagrada Familia

His career was spent mostly on the construction of La Sagrada Familia, which was only 20% complete at his death in 1926. Once finished, the church will be the tallest basilica in the world. 

Louis Comfort Tiffany

Son of the famous jeweler Charles Lewes Tiffany, Louis was exposed and trained in the arts. He initially learned painting but decided to explore stained glass art and eventually established his own glassmaking factory. 

He became one of the most notable Art Nouveau artists with his glasswork style called Favrile glass. This work displayed iridescent and freely shaped glass combined with bronzelike alloys. It was admired internationally, especially in Central Europe. 

Émile Gallé

Another glassmaker famous for his works under Art Nouveau is Emile Galle. He founded the École de Nancy, a group dedicated to expand the Art Nouveau movement whose inspiration is mostly based on plant forms, hogweed, waterlily, animals, and more. He also became the director of his father’s glass company and his own wood workshop and crystal firm. 

Glass vase by Emile Galle

He rose to fame after winning a “Grand Prix” at the 1889 universal exhibition in Paris. One of his most significant works is a vase-lamp called, “Celebration of Spring.” During his free time, Galle would collect and study plants and bugs for inspiration. 

Louis Majorelle

Louis Majorelle was a co-founder of the École de Nancy. His focus was on creating and reviving old pieces of furniture. With Galle as his mentor and guide, Majorelle began to incorporate natural themes and new shapes into his furniture. He maintained a modern workshop that incorporated machine and hand labor in wood, bronze, cabinetry, marquetry, and sculpture. 

The artist has opened salesrooms in Nancy, Paris, Lyon, and Lille. 

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec

The French painter most recognized contribution is elevating advertising to the level of fine art. In his time, he sold beautiful paintings as posters of Parisian business owners. His most famous piece was the painting “At the Moulin Rouge” depicting the cabaret which opened in 1889. 

Most of his works use free-flowing, expressive lines, and pure arabesque. The artist also turned to the lithograph as a medium.  

Victor Horta

Expanding the movement from visual and decorative arts into architecture, Victor Hortas was considered one of the pioneers of Art Nouveau. His work mostly displayed his understanding of iron and glass, even featuring twisted and bent iron in the exterior of his buildings. 

The first Art Nouveau building created was the Hotel Tassel, a design made by the Belgian architect. The building combined themes of nature and industry, showcasing the iconic stair hall which can be viewed from the exterior of the building. 

Art Nouveau Painting sample

The Art Nouveau aesthetic are evident in different media including decorative art, architecture, and advertisements. Much of the work made by the artists above are sought after by modern collectors and followers.

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