Czech Fin-de-Siècle Art
Art Nouveau styled Triton Restaurant
A considerable body of recent literature – both scholarly and popular – has been produced on the topic of Art Nouveau. What is it, though? Where did Art Nouveau come from? What does it stand for? What are all the things that it involves? And those it doesn’t? How did it end?
Art Nouveau is a style of art which dominated at the turn of the 19th century.
In a nutshell, we may say that Art Nouveau was a response to the preceding development of art. In the second half of the 19th century, a lot of artists were dissatisfied with the previous development of art. Based on diverse criteria, there was a boundary drawn between high and low art (thus painting meant more that drawing, etc.). Academies only acknowledged some themes as serious subjects: for instance, the still life did not rank as high as the history painting representing a figural scene or a scene depicting a heroic event. The arts scene, or the environment of academies, exhibitions (in France known as the Salons) and art trade were influenced by the conventional upper class, whose morality in decline. Artists gradually ceased to endorse all of these circumstances. The first signs of a great artistic change were brought by Impressionism. Artists found out that it was not necessary to apply the monumental realist technique to painting, but that painting could be realized by means of smudges, which merge by consequence of optical laws; it is possible to create an atmosphere of imperceptible moment. The Post-Impressionist artists such as Van Gogh or Seurat each transformed this technique in their own way. Paul Gaugin and his followers, known as the Pont-Aven School, prefigured a new style – Expressionism. With its themes – religion, self-stylisation, dreams, death and illness – it gave rise to the Decadent movement in the 1890s.
Another principal event which helped to bring Art Nouveau into being was the Arts and Crafts movement. This movement occurred in England as a reaction to the industrial revolution. Having dehumanised the crafts and transformed their production into a range of off-the-shelf products, the industrial revolution annihilated the uniqueness of the artistic object. The Arts and Crafts movement tried to restore the handicrafts as the hallmark of originality and respectability. The movement united artists and designers who designed unique pieces of furniture with innovation as well as other articles of daily use.