Monday, May 14, 2007
new art for the new century
Art Nouveau, meaning 'new art' in French peaked in popularity at the beginning of the 20th century (1880-1914) and is characterized by highly stylized, flowing, curvilinear design. The decorative nature of the Art Nouveau Movement has influenced so much graphic design work of the 20th century that it is impossible to look at the first decade of last century without taking note of this highly distinctive style.
Two opposing aesthetics make themselves felt in Art Nouveau design: one is a return to the organic and curvilinear, the other a tendency toward abstraction and repetition. Drawing on the traditional craft design of the Arts and Craft Movement of the late 19th century, illustrative and graphic artists such as Alfonse Mucha (famous for his lush lithographed poster prints of theatre actress Sarah Bernhardt), Eugene Grassat and Gustav Klimt are but a few who used plant and animal motifs represented with heavy, trailing lines and flat colours. These motifs would take on a geometrical edge and would be repeated to form patterns covering entire print fields or filling borders for illustrations or advertising.
The Art Nouveau style was a source of cross-pollination in this fertile period for designers and artists throughout not only Europe but to other continents such as the U.S. Most evident in typographic styling was the characteristic use of all caps in font style with either elegant and decorative or angular or curvy type reminiscent of foliage. Of significant and striking influence to the artists of the Art Nouveau movement were also the traditional Japanese wood block prints with their curved lines, patterned surfaces, contrasting voids, and flatness of visual plane. Many line and curve patterns classically synonymous with Art Nouveau have become graphic clichés that continue to influence works of artists and designers all over the world.