Friday, August 19, 2022

Art Nouveau

by Susan G Mathis

Art Nouveau, meaning “new art,” was a popular style of decorative art and architecture between 1890 and 1910. Inspired by nature, it reflected the curses and flourishes found in nature. It also portrayed a sense of movement and asymmetry, often breaking from the traditional fine arts styles that were typically elitist and academic. Therefore, it was considered modern, even brash.

The art form was widely used in furnishings, as my upholstery maid, Peyton, describes in my story Peyton’s Promise. Plants, flowers, curves, flourishes abounded, as did the bright, vibrant colors of nature. Gone we the subtle tones of Victorianism and straight, traditional lines. Indeed, modern materials back then, including glass, ceramics, iron and later concrete were bent and twisted into unusual forms of nature.

But traditionalists balked at the breakdown of “true art” as interior design, textiles and jewelry reflected the art nouveau style more and more. Ceramics and iron works were added, and the traditional art community lost control. Flat, traditional design remained popular with the elite, while a few brave souls embraced this new art form.

Art Nouveau features naturalistic but stylized forms, often combined with more geometric shapes, particularly arcs, parabolas, and semicircles. The Art Nouveau movement focused on a desire for quality craftsmanship in an age of growing industrialization and mass-production. Art Nouveau furniture was often made of hardwoods, especially walnut, oak, and teak with long elaborative curves and twists that had to be done by hand. The result was a style that most people couldn’t afford.

In 1890, homes in Brussels began to be decorated inside and out in the Art Nouveau style. It quickly migrated to Paris and the entrances of the newly built Paris Metro stations. In 1900, the International Paris Exposition introduced the world to Art Nouveau, and it spread to the rest of Europe and across the Pond.

Many of Europe’s capitals and artistic cities, including Turin, Glasgow, Munich, Barcelona, and Helsinki still sport the Art Nouveau of the Gilded Age era. But by 1914 and the beginning of World War I, Art Nouveau began to fade. After the Great War, Art Deco and true Modernism took its place until the resurgence of it in the 1960s.

Whether you like Art Nouveau or not, God’s creation inspired this bolder, fresher form of art that still stands in many places today. In Peyton’s Promise, Mrs. Emery enjoyed it so much that she had much of Calumet Castle’s furnishings recovered in Art Nouveau fabric. It’s always fun to incorporate these kinds of things into my stories.

Do you like Art Nouveau? Tell me more. Leave your answer or comments on the post below and join me on September 19th for my next post.

About Peyton’s Promise

book 3 of the Thousand Islands Gilded Age series

Summer 1902

Peyton Quinn is tasked with preparing the grand Calumet Castle ballroom for a spectacular two-hundred-guest summer gala. As she works in a male-dominated position of upholsterer and fights for women’s equality, she’s persecuted for her unorthodox ways. But when her pyrotechnics-engineer father is seriously hurt, she takes over the plans for the fireworks display despite being socially ostracized.

Patrick Taylor, Calumet’s carpenter and Peyton’s childhood chum, hopes to win her heart, but her unconventional undertakings cause a rift. Peyton has to ignore the prejudices and persevere or she could lose her job, forfeit Patrick’s love and respect, and forever become the talk of local gossips.

About Susan:

Susan G Mathis is an international award-winning, multi-published author of stories set in the beautiful Thousand Islands, her childhood stomping ground in upstate NY. Susan has been published more than twenty-five times in full-length novels, novellas, and non-fiction books.

Her first two books of The Thousand Islands Gilded Age series, Devyn’s Dilemma, and Katelyn’s Choice have each won multiple awards, and book three, Peyton’s Promise, is her newest. Rachel’s Reunion releases October 7. The Fabric of Hope: An Irish Family Legacy, Christmas Charity, and Sara’s Surprise, and Reagan’s Reward, are also award winners.

Susan is also a published author of two premarital books, stories in a dozen compilations, and hundreds of published articles. Susan lives in Colorado Springs and enjoys traveling the world. Visit for more.

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  1. Thanks for posting today and for contributing to this blog monthly. I haven't seen a lot of Art Nouveau architecture. That one picture you show seems a little overblown for my taste, but I'm sure it must be awesome to see in person.

  2. Susan, Thank you for sharing this fascinating post!