Art Nouveau at The Henry Ford
22 artifacts in this set
Increased communication and trade with Asia in the second half of the nineteenth century brought new design inspiration to Europe. Japanese woodblock prints particularly appealed to Art Nouveau poster designers, who drew from the prints' asymmetry and contrasting colors (which helped to create an illusion of depth) in their own work.
In the hands of Art Nouveau designers and artists, traditional botanical motifs became asymmetrical and abstract. The leaves and lilies depicted on this bookplate by Rene Lalique, best known today for his work in glass, swoop downward and extend beyond the border. Lalique's organic, calligraphic lettering (bottom left) further exemplifies the Art Nouveau style.
A major element of the Art Nouveau style, the sensual female figure was popularized by French poster artists like Jules Cheret and Alphonse Mucha. The illustrator of this Art Nouveau bookplate placed a woman at the center, used diagonal lines to create an illusion of depth (a technique derived from Japanese prints), and added stylized botanical motifs to frame the image.
Americans first encountered Art Nouveau as graphic art imported from Europe. American illustrators adapted elements of the style for advertising posters and magazines. This poster by Will H. Bradley, who would become one of the best-known artists of his time, promoted a Thanksgiving issue of Harper's Bazaar. Bradley applied Art Nouveau styling to traditional symbols -- a sheaf of wheat and a turkey -- to convey the bounty of the season.
For a few years in the 1890s, a poster craze swept America. Bold, colorful art posters printed for bookstores and newsstands became collectors' items, sometimes outselling the books and magazines they were designed to promote. Many posters, like this one by Louis Rhead for a Christmas issue of Scribner's Magazine, featured eye-catching illustrations inspired by Art Nouveau trends.
By 1900, Art Nouveau styling pervaded a wide range of consumer goods. American manufacturers produced art glass inspired by Art Nouveau through the 1920s. The etched floral design on this turn-of-the-century vase strongly resembles the work of French Art Nouveau pioneer Eugene Grasset.
In the 1890s, American designer Louis Comfort Tiffany developed a process to imitate the iridescent shimmer of ancient weathered glass. His "Favrile" line of art glass included organic forms characteristic of the Art Nouveau style, sometimes featuring abstract ornamentation such as the design on this toothpick holder.
Louis Comfort Tiffany gained international acclaim, exhibiting his work in metal, glass, and jewelry alongside European Art Nouveau designers in Paris as early as 1895. The sinuous, plant-like design of this high-end glass and metal Tiffany candelabrum exemplifies the Art Nouveau style.
American firms manufactured Art Nouveau-inspired art glass at a range of price points through the 1920s. This goblet designed by Emil Larsen would have been affordable for middle class consumers. Larsen was noted for his patterns emulating peacock feathers, a popular Art Nouveau design element.
Louis Comfort Tiffany became known for applying Art Nouveau aesthetics to lighting products. This nature-themed "Daffodil" lamp is the first design attributed to Clara Driscoll, who led the Women’s Glass Cutting Department at Tiffany Studios. Driscoll designed many now-iconic leaded glass lamps for Tiffany.
Other companies, especially the Pairpoint Corporation, produced lamps to rival those popularized by Louis Comfort Tiffany. The undulating lines and botanical motifs encircling the Pairpoint lamp depicted here are characteristic of the Art Nouveau style.
The explosion of the electrical industry in the 1890s generated new design needs. Electrical corporations hired artists working in the style of the day -- Art Nouveau -- to design their buildings, products, and communications. These partnerships marked the beginnings of industrial design.
Inspired by the Parisian gallery that gave Art Nouveau its name, designers at the Gorham Manufacturing Company in Providence, Rhode Island, developed the "Martele" line of high-end silver in the late 1890s. This pitcher's asymmetry, fluid lines, and botanical motifs were characteristic of European Art Nouveau.
The Pairpoint Corporation in New Bedford, Massachusetts, was noted for producing presentation pieces in metal. The organic botanical forms and whiplash handles of this silver Pairpoint trophy, awarded for achievement in a 1906 automotive competition, exemplify the Art Nouveau style.
Ceramic artist Artus Van Briggle first encountered Art Nouveau while studying in Europe. The style's influence on Van Briggle's later work is evident in the first figural vase he designed -- "Lorelei," made since 1901. The hair, head, shoulder, and arm of an abstract female figure emerge from flowing robes to form the mouth of the vase.
By the turn of the century, well-heeled consumers could choose from an array of luxury goods in the Art Nouveau style. This handbag features classic Art Nouveau motifs: botanical elements, curved lines, and a peacock, whose fanned tail feathers dominate the center of the design.
Art Nouveau reached its peak of popularity in 1900, but American manufacturers incorporated echoes of the style in products and product packaging into the 1910s. The Art Nouveau styling of the label for this everyday product -- a bar of soap -- would have appealed to many consumers.
As part of the counterculture of the 1960s, graphic artists looked back to Art Nouveau as an alternative to mainstream design. This button combined calligraphic text and a female figure derived from Art Nouveau with a contrasting neon color scheme typical of contemporary psychedelic art.
The pervasion of music in the counterculture era led to a poster revival, and concert posters influenced by the Art Nouveau style became ubiquitous. For this Rolling Stones poster, David Byrd took the visual structure, central female figure, and color gradation technique used by poster artist Alphonse Mucha in the 1890s and updated them for the 1960s.
100 years after its peak, artists continued looking back to the Art Nouveau style for inspiration. In 1999, Kimiake Higuchi revived a popular Art Nouveau glassmaking technique known as "pate-de-verre" to achieve the opaque finish of this vase. Other design elements, including the color scheme and botanical motif, further echo the Art Nouveau.