It is often suggested Art Nouveau first appeared in France and Belgium. This is mainly considered the case due to the work of the great architect Victor Horta and the designer Van de Velde both from Belgium. Their work first appeared in Belgium; townhouses featured elegantly twining wrought-iron staircases, balconies, and gates.
Velde moved to Paris and designed a shop for Samuel Bing. The La Maison de l’Art Nouveau shop would give its name to the Art Nouveau movement. Velde designed everything in his own house down to the table silver and cookware.
He was inspired by English Arts and Craft design and established a bridge between the two. He moved to Berlin and designed the Art School in 1904-11. This school would eventually become the world leading Bauhaus.
Victor Horta designed furniture, light fittings, stain glass panels, door and window frames and hardware. One of his most famous buildings the Tassel House (hotel) was built in 1892. He used flowing curves in the steps and iron railings of the stair way. He painted or stenciled mute coloured patterns on the walls and ceiling. The metal columns were slim, hanging light fittings with shades in curved flower like shapes and the floor was mosaic placed in an S curved flowing pattern.
Horta’s own house is now the Horta Museum. He used white tiles on the walls and ceiling in a brick like fashion. Timbers built in cabinets were created with stained glass inserts. Curved lines dominate the furniture and room.
Horta used a centralized floor plan instead of the usual corridor design of the era. He supervised all the interior decoration and furniture design in all his buildings. The four major town houses he designed Hotel Tassel, Hotel Solvay, Hotel van Eetvelde and the Maison & Atelier are located in Brussels. In 2000 the buildings were listed as World Heritage.
Victor Horta used
· Iron railings in curved lines
· Stenciled walls and ceilings
· Mosaic floor tiles
· Irregular shapes
· Exposed cast iron structurally
· A centralised floor plan
· Glass and iron facades
· Asymmetrical balance
· White tiles
· Muted colours (olive, mustard, sage, brown gold, salmon…)
Hector Guimard is the architect who developed the style in France. He designed the Parisian Metro subway entrances in 1898-1901.
Emile Galle’s glass work, Louis Majorelle’s furniture designs and the posters of the artist Alphonse Mucha are all contributors to the Art Nouveau movement.
Maxim’s Restaurant also had fashionable Art Nouveau interior décor. In 1909 Paris was invaded by the Ballets Russes. They used scenery and costumes in bright primary colours instead of the pastel shades of the era. This influenced the interior decoration of drawings rooms and salons. The rooms become richly textured, with patterned curtains and heaps of cushions in reds, green and orange.
“The artist is nothing without the gift,
but the gift is nothing without work.”
Emile Zola (1840-1902)