First of all it's all
about the style and then the time period. Art Nouveau can be said
to have originated in the 1880s, peaked around 1900 and lasted
until the start of the First World War in 1914 (although there was
an overlap with items in the Art Nouveau style continuing to be
produced into the 1920s). It derived its name from Maison de l'Art
Nouveau, an interior design gallery opened in Paris in 1896. The
style had many different names throughout Europe such as
Jugendstil in Germany, Sezessionstil in Austria, Modernista in
Spain, Stile Liberty and Floreale in Italy. It was a reaction
against the historicism which had plagued the 19th century.
Art Deco (or Art Moderne) was itself then a reaction against the
Art Nouveau style and was very popular in the 20s and 30s but
wasn't actually known as "Art Deco" until the 1960s, deriving its
name from the 1925 Exposition Internationale des Arts Decoratifs
Industriels et Modernes. It is an elegant style of cool
sophistication in architecture and the applied arts, which ranged
from luxurious objects made from exotic material to mass produced,
streamlined items available to a growing middle class. When we
talk about the style of the two movements there are a couple of
examples of architecture that make it very easy to see the
difference. The first are details from the Paris Metro entrances
designed by Hector Guimard, completed around 1900 which are
perfect examples of French Art Nouveau. They have an almost
organic feel to them appearing more to have grown than to have
been created by man.
The second example is the Chrysler building in New York, designed
by architect William van Alen and built between 1928-1930. Its
style is a fusion of Egyptian (the discovery of the tomb of
Tutankhamen was a major influence on the Art Deco style) and Mayan
influences with its sleek lines, geometric shapes and surface
When we refer to articles made for the home the most obvious (and
well known) examples of the Art Nouveau style are the glass of
Emile Gallé and Tiffany, the furniture of Majorelle and Liberty,
the metal wares from the German manufacturer W.M.F. and once again
Liberty. The sculptures in bronze and ivory by Chiparus, Preiss
and Lorenzl, the exquisite glass of René Lalique and the pottery
of Clarice Cliff, typify the various styles and movements that
come under the umbrella term of Art Deco.
So to sum up this very brief explanation of these two styles,
think fluidity, organic and whiplash motifs for Art Nouveau and
streamlined, geometric, shiny and "modern" for Art Deco. Of course
not everything made during these periods can be called Art Nouveau
and Art Deco. A vase from the year 1900 isn't automatically
described as being Art Nouveau, a table isn't "Art Deco" just
because it was made in 1930. Why not you may ask? Well, as I wrote
at the start, it's all about the style...
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