Art Nouveau and Jugendstil

Art Nouveau and Jugendstil

Towards the end of the 19th Century, the Art Nouveau movement surges in various European countries. While each has an independent style, they are united in breaking from Historicism and the idealist themes of the past. Architects Victor Horta in Belgium, Hector Guimard in France and Gaudí in Catalonia are among the biggest names in the Art Nouveau movement. In Germany, Art Nouveau is known as Jugendstil, named after the country’s art magazine, Jugend. The driving force in this movement is Georg Hirth, the founder of the Munich Secession. This Secession becomes the inspiration for the Vienna Secession.

Art Nouveau unites architects, artisans and artists in a common artistic goal: transforming living quarters, cafés, theaters, metro stations and town halls... into a lived artistic experience. Each element in this universe will fit with the overarching theme, while at the same time being both ornamental and functional.

The Belgian and French Art Nouveau style is inspired by natural forms and is characterized by its curves and arabesques. Its preferred motifs include flowers, leaves, fish, peacocks and, of course, women. Art Nouveau style uses a much lighter palette, often with touches of gold coming through. When it comes to materials, we observe the use of clear and stained glass, wood, stone and, above all, forged metals.

In Austro-Hungary, the Sezessionstil (Secessionist style) is more geometrical and refined than the Belgian and French Art Nouveau style. The Karlsplatz metro station in Vienna, conceived by architects Otto Wagner and Josef Maria Olbrich in 1899, offers a perfect example of this. The pavilion, balanced and symmetrical, admits a wealth of natural light. Its wrought iron structure has marble slabs mounted on the exterior, broken up by straight lines running vertically, horizontally and diagonally. The addition of the gold and black sunflower motif somewhat softens the pavilion’s façade.

Even the posters for the Viennese Secession’s exhibitions are more graphic than those of the French Art Nouveau movement. A good example would be the poster for the 13th Exhibition designed by Koloman Moser which, while figurative, was almost exclusively made up of straight lines, circles and squares. The poster is dominated by block colours, namely red, blue and black, working in contrast against each other.