Art Nouveau Attraction

To the mystery person who outbid me on eBay for the antique Art Nouveau perfume bottle with sterling silver overlay; well played my persistent friend. Well played. Okay. You beat me. No hard feelings. I can take the hit. But I swear, at the next good condition circa 1900 Art Nouveau perfume bottle that comes up on eBay, I’ll see you for a rematch! It will be like Ali/Frazier! I will deplete my PayPal account for that thing. I will hit up my mother for cash! I will sell a kidney!! You hear me you greedy bidder you??? Aaargh.

I’m fine, really. Just kidding around. I’ve been trying to get one of those bottles for years now and it’s become my personal Holy Grail. But I accepted a long time ago that when it comes to acquiring things I just don’t have the killer instinct. And we all know, of course, that the biggest disadvantage to lacking a killer instinct is losing out on antique perfume bottles on eBay 😆

But I share this story here to introduce the turn-of-the-century movement known as Art Nouveau. Influencing virtually every aspect of arts and design, Art Nouveau originated in Europe and came into prominence in the late 19th century. It remained fashionable into the early 20th century, until the omnipotent beast known as “Modernism” effectively stomped it out.

The Art Nouveau aesthetic is noted for its elegant forms, curvy lines, and often combines decorative patterns with organic motifs, such as vines, flowers,, leaves, birds, and dragonflies (my favorite). I think it’s the looping, curling lines and swirls which make the style especially appealing among women, since rounded shapes are considered “feminine”. Hence my obsession with the curvy perfume bottle with the silver flower overlay.

Alphonse Mucha was the most famous visual artist of the Art Nouveau era. His popular illustrations are representative of the Art Nouveau “look”. This is Zodiac:

But it wasn’t all prettiness and colors and curves. A genuine philosophy came with the Art Nouveau movement. Instead of continuing the long held belief that “art” was found exclusively in the hallowed halls of museums, galleries, cathedrals, and the opulent homes of the wealthy, Art Nouveau sought to bring art and visual artistic beauty into the everyday life of ordinary people, onto every object no matter how utilitarian its purpose. The mundane was suddenly nice to look at and a pleasure to use. In both Europe and the United States, societies soon saw the appealing Art Nouveau design, with its trademark elements, popping up in everything from furniture,  jewelry, textiles, glassware, architecture, and graphic design. The huge wall of separation between fine arts and applied arts was broken down, and people found themselves surrounded by the sumptuous Art Nouveau style in their daily lives – from advertising posters, staircases, picture frames and chairs, to lighting fixtures and eating utensils, to cigarette cases, brooches, and even ladies’ hairbrushes.

This beautiful silver vase, ca. 1896, is a fine example of Art Nouveau style. The designer was Philippe Wolfers, and it appears on the Met Museum Heilbrunn Art History Timeline. See the entire collection at this link: Art Nouveau. And ladies, check out the Lalique pendant!

Because of its widespread popularity throughout Europe and the United States, Art Nouveau brought success to many outstanding designers of the applied and decorative arts. Mucha and Aubrey Beardsley in the graphic arts, Victor Horta and Hector Guimard in architecture,  Louis Majorelle in furniture design, and Rene Lalique and New York-based Louis Comfort Tiffany in glasswork. Those are just a few of the many creative talents who prospered during the Art Nouveau period.

Guiding Angel stained glass panel by the Tiffany Glass & Decorating Company, circa 1890:

Art Nouveau. Elegant, sexy, curvy, feminine, and super stylish. What’s not to like? I’m going to conclude this post with a link to an image of my Holy Grail. I just have to find one at a reasonable price. And by reasonable I mean cheap. “Reasonable” is a euphemism for “cheap”, isn’t it? 😆

Art Nouveau Silver Overlay with Irises

The one in the link is exquisite. It’s also $225. No can do. I’ve got, um, utility bills. Dammit! Back to eBay I go. Wish me luck!

7 thoughts on “Art Nouveau Attraction

  1. Dave Rudin says:

    That is certainly a very beautiful item, Claudia. I can understand you’re wanting to have it. Me thinks it would be worth living in the dark for a month or two to possess, would it not? 😉 Once you paid your electric bill and the lights came on again, you’d actually be able to see it!

    Of course, what one person considers to be “reasonable” can be considered by others to be both cheap or expensive. Don’t feel too bad about not having a killer instinct for acquisition. I find the primary reason for this not to be a personality flaw as much as a flaw in one’s bank account, combined with a desire to eat food on a regular basis.

    I like Art Nouveau, especially Tiffany, but I have to admit that my personal favorite is Art Deco.

    • artmodel says:

      Dave,

      I prefer to eat on a regular basis, yes 😆 Ah, priorities!

      I don’t easily spend money on myself, not for non-essential items I mean. But when something tickles my fancy it’s usually something very specific and, to me, special in some way. Who knows why we are attracted to certain objects, styles, etc. We like what we like. And as you said, that perfume bottle in the link is very beautiful. I’ve seen them around in antique shops and flea markets. But many of them have either been replicas, or in very poor condition – missing the stopper, cracks, etc.

      Art Deco is great, by the way, I love it too.

      Thanks for your comments, Dave!

      Claudia

  2. Fred says:

    I love Art Nouveau architecture. Paris still has many remnants of the style, including some of the Metro entrances. And of course Barcelona has the buildings of Gaudi and Jujol. All the shapes are derived from or inspired by natural organic forms. Art Nouveau buildings look like they’re alive!

  3. Cool, wow, great man, otta sight, wow! Uh, in other words, yes I kinda like Art Nouveau, though I think I can live without a perfume bottle. 🙂

    My favorite artist, right now, is Takabatake Kashou (1886-1966) a turn of the century Japanese artist who was strongly influenced by European Art Nouveau., (here’s a link to some of his work: http://www.internetweekly.org/2010/05/art_kasho_takabatake.html ) and originator of the Japanese artistic style, Taisho Romanticism.

    Japan was just exiting their feudal era and his works were a breath of fresh air to the Japanese affecting them much the same was as the Europeans were by Art Nouveau.

    I know I’m off on a bit of a tangent but I like the guy and I do think the relationship twix Art Nouveau and Taisho Romanticism is at least somewhat germane to your post.

    I had the pleasure, this autumn last, of visiting with descendants of Takabatake Kashou and one of his students. One of the the memories of his student, passed on to his granddaughter, was keeping track of Kashou’s dog. The students knew if the dog got hurt or anything they’d be in big trouble! 🙂

    • artmodel says:

      Jim,

      This is excellent, thank you! I loved Kashou’s art in the link you included. I totally see the influence of western Art Nouveau in the concurrent Japanese period. Not a tangent at all, but rather a highly informative and fascinating addition to the Art Nouveau topic. Thanks for sharing your knowledge and experience. I enjoyed this.

      Claudia

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