1890 - 1915
What happens when the Realists' and Impressionists' focus on the common man combines with the industrial age? Art Nouveau was primarily a movement among craftsmen and architects. It sought to bring aesthetics to the grit and mass production of the Progressive Era that ripped Americans and Europeans from their rural roots.
Art Nouveau forms are flowing, curvilinear, and complex. The use of geometric shapes like half circles and parabolas was heavily related to Picasso’s work at the time. The guiding principle was that decorative art should be everywhere. In this way, it combined the Realists’ and Impressionists’ focus on common life, with the emerging tools of mass production. It sought to add beauty to the products of the industrial age. The style of Louis Comfort Tiffany, its major practitioner is still seen in residential and commercial spaces today.
However, there was another side to the Art Nouveau movement manifested through a fascination with the female form. This fascination was related to another art movement taking place at almost precisely the same time. Symbolism was the first modern art movement to concern itself more with meaning than aesthetic, and many artists of the time used the female form as a handy symbol of nurturing, desire, and even sexuality.
The Art Nouveau movement didn't last much longer than a trip on the Pennsylvania Railroad, yet its effects are still seen in contemporary furniture and buildings. It also heavily influenced the opulent Art Deco design aesthetic that emerged after World War I and is still celebrated in buildings like Radio City Music Hall in New York and throughout Miami’s popular Art Deco Historic District.