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The Art Nouveau Movement (1890-1914)

B E L G I U M and J U G E N D


Art Nouveau was an international decorative style that thrived during the two decades (1890-1914) that encircled the turn of the century. It encompassed all the design arts – architecture, furniture and product design, fashion, and graphics. Because Art Nouveau forms and lines were often invented rather than copied from nature or the past, there was a revitalization of the design process that pointed toward abstract. Art Nouveau’s off-spring are 20th century designers who adopted, not its surface appearance, but rather its attitude toward materials, process, and values.

While a common form language linked the various versions of Art Nouveau, the style developed differently in each country. In England, new simplified forms had dictated suitable decoration; in France, the style developed from the sense that decoration
dictated form.The style in Belgium is characterized as a “whiplash linear” style. During
the mid-1890’s the German Jugendstil (Youth Style) and the Austrian Secession were characterized by hard-edge angular graphics; and the Glasgow Style, can be characterized by its rectilinear symmetry.

Although Art Nouveau gained its prominence in France, its roots come from England. Specifically, with the art of Mackmurdo. In England, the style of Art Nouveau primarily seen in the graphic design and illustration, not in its architecture, sculpture, etc. as in other countries.


Gisbert Combaz (1869-1941)
Combaz was a lawyer before he became an artist. He specialized in art from the Far East, this influenced his art nouveau style of work – intense color. He was from Belgium.

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Henri van de Velde (1863-1957)
He was a Belgium architect, painter, writer and designer. Velde trained In Antwerp, Belgium in painting from 1881-84. He later abandoned painter for design in1892. Velde was influenced by the Art & Crafts movement, and Cherét. Velde left Belgium for Germany and was a key character in the development of German's art nouveau style called Jugendstil. The poster above was Velde's only poster, it was for a food company – you clearly see the curvilinear forms of art nouveau. Velde went on to teaching, he taught at the Weimar School of Art and Crafts for 10 years (1904-1914), recommending when he left Walter Gropius to replace him. Gropius went on to become the founder of the Bauhaus School. Velde lived in Switzerland for a few years before settling in Holland in 1920.

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Peter Behrens (18XX-19XX)

Working at the same time but more influenced by the Art  Nouveau style than the Cubist was Ger man artist, architect, and designer Peter Behrens (1868-1940). Behrens played a major role in charting the course for design in the first decade of the century. He sought typographic reform and was an early advocate of sans serif typography. Behrens used a grid system to structure the space in his graphic designs. He has been called the “first industrial designer” because of his work on products such as street-lamps and teapots.

In 1906 Behrens was hired to create advertising material for the electrical company
AEG, and in 1907 he assumed responsibility for design in all areas of the firm. Between 1907 and 1914, Behrens completely revolutionized the company’s image. He designed everything from catalogs to the factory buildings. Through Behren’s work AEG became the first firm in the w or ld with a total “corporate identity”.

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Otto Eckmann (1865-1902)
Eckmann is considered one of the pioneers of Germany's Jugendstil art movement. Eckmann was born in Hamburg, Germany. He studied to be a painter, but around 1894, Eckmann abandoned painting to pursue graphic/typographic design. His type design is what he is best known for. Typefaces he designed include; Eckmann-Schrift (1900), and Fette Eckmann (1902)

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Bruno Paul (1874-1968)
Bruno Paul, exhibition poster for Arts & Crafts in Munich, 1901. Paul his better known for his cartoons and caricatures, especially in the German magazine "Simplicissimus", which had a huge effect on the look and content of cartoons throughout Europe.

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