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belgian art nouveau
french art nouveau
spanish art nouveau
the glasgow school
secession style
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Art nouveau was a style in the visual arts that flourished in the major urban centers of Europe between 1890 and 1914. Originating in Great Britain, Belgium, and France, the style was quickly adopted by avant-garde artists and craftsmen throughout Europe, who adapted the genre by incorporating elements from their own national, historical, and ethnic heritages. Art nouveau, or "the new art," was a reaction to what its advocates regarded as an uninspired copying of past architectural styles referred to as historicism. In opposition to the neoclassicism that dominated architecture in the mid-nineteenth century, art nouveau designers replaced straight lines and symmetry with asymmetrical curves. They sought to integrate form and decoration, using motifs from the natural world, including plants (especially flowers and stems), animals (particularly sea creatures and insects), and the human body (especially women's faces). These elements were not copied directly from nature, however, but were highly stylized. The most common line used in art nouveau was a sinuous, asymmetrical curve that could resemble a tight whiplash or a slightly curved flower stem, giving rise to one label for Belgian art nouveau—the stem style. But certain art nouveau practitioners, notably Charles Rennie Mackintosh (1868–1928) in Scotland and Josef Hoffmann (1870–1956) in Austria, favored rectilinear forms that prefigured twentieth-century art and architecture.

Art nouveau theorists and practitioners sought to break down what they regarded as an artificial dichotomy between the arts and crafts or industrial arts. Many art nouveau artists learned crafts such as weaving, furniture making, ceramics, and metalwork, and elevated these crafts by infusing them with modern design elements. Art nouveau architects and designers sought to create what they termed Gesamtkunstwerk— a total work of art—in which all elements—exterior, interior, furniture, fixtures, lighting, wallpaper, floor coverings, stair railings, and even plates, door knobs and street numbers—were designed to make a harmonious and coherent stylistic statement.

An instantly recognizable style, art nouveau was nevertheless full of contradictions. While it was an international style, practitioners in various countries developed such distinctive styles that different terms arose to describe art nouveau manifestations in individual countries, for example, Secession in Austria and Germany, modernismo in Spain, Jugend (Youth) in Finland, Stile Floreale (Floral Style) in Italy, as well as the somewhat derisive "art métro" in France. While some art nouveau designers and entrepreneurs sought to bring soundly designed objects to working- and middle-class households, many art nouveau works were individual creations made of the highest quality materials by skilled craftsmen, and therefore available only to the very wealthy. While borrowing peasant motifs and craft techniques, art nouveau was an urban phenomenon catering to an urban clientele. Although art nouveau celebrated the female form and face, women were sometimes portrayed as sinister—Salomé and Medusa being frequent subjects of art nouveau imagery. And while art nouveau designers looked to their countries' artistic past to create works of art that reflected their regional and national heritage, art nouveau theorists and the public at large considered the style to be thoroughly modern.

Even in its heyday, the new art had its detractors. One critic referred to it as "ornamental hell," another as "chaos in design." Others saw it as reflective of the anxiety and nervousness of the era, condemning it as decadent, subversive, or merely kitsch.


As a modern style that broke with artistic tradition, art nouveau was initially proselytized by theorists in art journals. Henry van de Velde (1863–1957), a self-trained Belgian architect and designer, wrote a pamphlet entitled Déblaiement d'art (A clean sweep for art) in 1894, in which he called for crafts to be put on an equal footing with fine art. Siegfried Bing, a German art collector and dealer, opened a gallery in Paris in 1895 called L'Art Nouveau, providing a name for the new style as well as an important distribution center for the new art.

Major international expositions served as important vehicles for the dissemination of art nouveau design. An estimated 170 million people visited the nine international expositions that featured art nouveau buildings, interiors, and objects between 1897 and 1908. The Brussels Exposition Universelle of 1897, the Exposition Universelle of 1900 in Paris, and the Prima Exposizione d'arte Decorativa in Turin in 1902, among other international expositions, brought art nouveau architectural styles, art works, and objets d'art to a curious public. Leading art nouveau architects, interior designers, furniture makers, glass and ceramic manufacturers, and textile designers created pavilions that expressed the Gesamtkunstwerk ethic as well as their own nation's variant of the new art. Companies displaying their goods at these expositions, such as Liberty of London and Gallé and Daum of France, produced, marketed, and sold art nouveau–inspired products to a mass market, and by 1900 art nouveau had become mainstream. In addition to sponsoring international exhibitions, some governments encouraged modern design through support of colleges of industrial design and the establishment of craft museums, which became important vehicles for the diffusion of national art nouveau styles.

But just as art nouveau became omnipresent, it became déclassé among the most avant-garde artists and art theorists, who now favored simple, functional design and eschewed what they considered to be the decorative excesses of the new style. The career paths of two Belgian architects are emblematic: after creating the first art nouveau building in 1893, Victor Horta (1861–1947) returned to a more geometric classical style in Belgium's Art Deco pavilion for the 1925 Exposition Internationale in Paris, while Henry Van de Velde went on to become an early exponent of the International Style, designing a streamlined steel and glass pavilion for the Exposition Universelle in Paris in 1937.

Many of art nouveau's noteworthy buildings and interiors were built for universal expositions, and so were by their nature temporary. In the twentieth century, many art nouveau buildings succumbed to the ravages of war or urban renewal (for example, the Maison du Peuple, designed by Horta, and most of the Paris métro entrances designed by Hector Guimard). But the style enjoyed renewed popularity at the turn of the next century, and many surviving art nouveau buildings have been restored and turned into showpieces, attracting thousands of visitors who marvel at the elegance, audacity, and individuality of art nouveau designers.


Art nouveau designers took inspiration from a variety of sources. The Japanese woodblock prints admired by the French impressionists also influenced art nouveau artists, who appreciated the Japanese emphasis on line, the predominance of flat, unshaded blocks of color, and the use of empty space. The Japanese treatment of nature, including minute renderings of animals and plants, as well as a penchant for asymmetrical composition, appealed to art nouveau designers. The whiplash curve, a hallmark of art nouveau, was a common feature of Japanese, as well as Islamic art, another source of inspiration. The arabesque, or teardrop curve, found repeatedly in Islamic art, was adopted and modified in art nouveau, as was the Moorish "horseshoe" arch.

European trends in art and literature, including spiritualism and symbolism, influenced many art nouveau designers. New discoveries in medicine, including theories about the subconscious and hypnotism, were also reflected in art nouveau works, especially in France.


The English Arts and Crafts movement, which sought to eliminate the dichotomy between fine art and crafts, served as a philosophical point of departure for art nouveau designers. The socialist credo of improving the lives of common people through art was adapted by some, but not all, art nouveau adherents, some of whom preferred the aestheticism championed by James Whistler and Oscar Wilde, who advocated "art for art's sake." In 1893, the icon of English art nouveau, Aubrey Beardsley (1872–1898), created a sensation at the age of twenty-one with publication of his macabre, and at times sinister, drawings that illustrated editions of Oscar Wilde's play Salomé and Thomas Malory's Morte d'Arthur. Beardsley, who had tuberculosis and died at the age of twenty-six, published his trademark black and white ink drawings widely in avant-garde English art journals. His work was ultimately viewed as decadent by English observers—one critic remarked on its "diabolic beauty"—but he continued to be lionized in art nouveau circles on the Continent.

belgian art nouveau

In the same year Beardsley published his first drawings, Victor Horta, a Belgian architect, designed Tassel House, the first art nouveau building, which exhibited the sinuous whiplash curve in its mosaic floors, wall decoration, and iron railings. Horta went on to design many private homes and several department stores and shops in Brussels, using stained-glass skylights to provide soft natural light, as well as electric light fixtures shaped like exquisite flowers or starbursts. He sought to create housing for workers that was light and airy and designed the Maison du Peuple for the Union of Socialist Workers in which he used iron as the supporting structure for a wall of glass, prefiguring modern architecture's use of the curtain wall. The building was demolished in 1962.

Henry van de Velde, an art nouveau theorist and architect, was heavily influenced by William Morris and socialist art theory. He designed across the spectrum of the visual arts, including architecture, metalwork, textiles, posters, furniture, and clothing. He designed virtually every aspect of his own house in Brussels, including furniture, decorations, silverware, and his wife's clothing.

Philippe Wolfers (1858–1929), a metalworker and jeweler, worked extensively with ivory, encouraged by King Leopold II, who sought to promote trade with the Congo. Wolfers created a disturbing interpretation of nature in his silver, ivory, and onyx sculpture entitled Civilization and Barbary, which depicts a swan doing battle with a serpent.

french art nouveau

Art nouveau in France was spearheaded by Hector Guimard (1867–1942), a Parisian architect who designed apartment buildings and houses that combined the use of new materials and building techniques with archetypal art nouveau decoration for a middle-class clientele. Guimard designed furniture, dinner plates, garden fixtures, door hardware, and even street numbers with sinuous, organic lines. He also designed the entrances for

the Paris metro, pioneering the use of prefabricated components. The tall, overarching light fixtures of some metro stops resembled insect eyes, and covered entrances combined iron and glass to create for subway passengers the sensation of emerging from a starburst. Other French designers, including Georges DeFeure (1868–1928) and Émile Gallé (1846–1904), created furniture and interiors that reinterpreted the French rococo style of the eighteenth century, using gilded wood, floral motifs, and luxurious silks in designs with restrained and elegant curves.

Parisian jewelers combined new techniques with art nouveau subjects, including flowers and insects, to create startling works of art. René Lalique (1860–1945) developed new techniques of enameling metal and molding glass and used opals and ivory extensively. He reinterpreted natural forms, especially exotic flowers and insects, in audacious and elegant necklaces, brooches, and hair ornaments. His corsage ornament, consisting of a dragonfly metamorphosing into a woman, considered an icon of art nouveau, created a stir when it was exhibited at the Exposition Universelle in Paris in 1900.

Art nouveau design also flourished in Nancy, in eastern France, where Louis Majorelle (1859–1926) and others created elegant inlaid wood furniture that featured vegetal decoration in the classic asymmetrical art nouveau curve. Nancy was also the center of a thriving art nouveau art glass industry. Gallé designed ceramic and glass vases that gained a worldwide reputation for elegance, uniqueness, and craftsmanship. He took many motifs from nature, including marine animals, insects, flowers, bats, and beetles, portraying them with Japanese overtones. The Daum brothers produced art glass with clear colors, utilizing many technical advances, including pate-de-verre (a technique using a paste of crushed colored glass to create dramatic effects). In 1901, art nouveau artists and entrepreneurs created the École de Nancy, a society devoted to promoting the arts in industry, which encouraged the creation of high-quality, commercially viable art nouveau products over its twenty-year lifespan.

Several sources of support served to make art nouveau a semi-official style in France in the first decade of the twentieth century. Officials of the Third Republic viewed art nouveau's embrace of eighteenth-century rococo elements as the expression of a distinctly French national style. The government sponsored the Exposition Universelle of 1900 and financed construction of the Paris metro, both showpieces of art nouveau style, and supported the creation of a national museum to showcase French crafts.

spanish art nouveau

In Spain, art nouveau architecture was centered in Barcelona, a major industrial center with an active and forward-looking business class. Spanish art nouveau bifurcated into two opposing strains: modernismo, which combined expressive symbolism, local traditions and crafts, and modern technology, and the singular architecture of Antoni Gaudí (1852–1926). Modernismo's main practitioner was Lluis Domènech i Montaner (1849–1923), who designed the auditorium of the Palau de la Música Catalana and the Santa Creu Hospital.

Modernismo was overshadowed by Gaudí, who detested the new style and modern civilization in general. Although his early designs were eclectic, using elements from Moorish architecture and local traditions such as colorful ceramic tiles, his later work, especially the Sagrada Familia temple, reflected a modern treatment of Gothic design.

the glasgow school

Scottish art nouveau was created largely by two couples: Charles Rennie Mackintosh and his wife, Margaret Macdonald, and her sister, Frances Macdonald and her husband, Herbert McNair. Their art took inspiration from spiritualism and symbolism, and favored rectilinear lines over the asymmetrical curves of other art nouveau styles. Mackintosh and Macdonald designed many tearooms, such as Miss Cranston's, which featured white paneled walls, simple stained glass windows, and high-backed chairs. Their austere, white interiors have been interpreted as an escape from the intensely urban, gritty world of late nineteenth-century Glasgow. Macintosh also designed Hill House, an austere, fortress-like house, and the Glasgow School of Art, a brownstone edifice with metal detailing.

secession style

In Munich, young artists broke away from the established artists' association to form their own organization in 1892. They called their headquarters the Secession building, giving rise to the designation for their style of art nouveau. Also termed Jugendstil (Young Style), German art nouveau took its inspiration from symbolism and natural forms. Otto Eckmann (1865–1902), a printmaker and furniture and textile designer heavily influenced by Japanese prints, designed the "Five Swans" tapestry. Hermann Obrist (1862–1927) created vibrant embroidery designs, including the iconic "whiplash," evoking nature in an abstract fashion. August Endell (1871–1925) designed the Elvira Studio, with its extravagant seahorse-like motif. The facade was removed by the Nazis, who considered it decadent, and the building itself was destroyed in World War II.

In Vienna, young artists took a lead from their German counterparts, withdrawing from the established artists' organization to form their own society in 1897. Their headquarters, designed by Josef Maria Olbrich (1867–1908), featured a white rectilinear facade decorated with gold floral motifs. Gustav Klimt (1862–1918) exhibited his painting Pallas Athene at the opening of the Secession building. The dark portrayal of a Greek goddess suggests the power and threat of femininity, a common theme in Klimt's work. Josef Hoffmann designed furniture and houses with bold straight lines punctuated by void spaces. In his Palais Stoclet in Brussels, commissioned by a wealthy Belgian, every detail—wallpaper, carpets, silverware, furniture, and lighting—was designed to create a streamlined Gesamtkunstwerk. Hoffmann and Koloman Moser (1868–1919), an illustrator and textile designer, founded the Wiener Werkstätte (Vienna Workshops) in 1903 to elevate middle-class taste by producing soundly designed and luxurious hand-crafted furniture, wallpaper, textiles, jewelry, clothing, and tableware.

eastern europe

In Hungary, art nouveau designers sought to create a distinct national style by incorporating elements from peasant art, especially weaving. The Gödöllő Workshops, a colony of artists and designers outside of Budapest, produced leather work, stained glass, furniture, and tapestries inspired by peasant designs. Ödön Lechner (1845–1919?) used brick faced with glazed tile and wrought ironwork in his design for the Museum of Applied Arts. The iron and glass canopy was meant to suggest the tents of semi-nomadic Magyar tribes, and the notched arches were derived from Mogul art. He also used motifs borrowed from the Hungarian countryside, including bees and tulips, the latter regarded as a symbol of Hungarian identity. Craftsmen at the Zsolnay ceramics factory created sophisticated ceramics using an iridescent metal glaze called Eozin that produced brilliant and variegated colors.

In Prague, modern trends from abroad combined with influences from Czech peasant culture to create a varied and eclectic art nouveau style. The Municipal House, commissioned by Prague's city government, was intended to represent Czech identity, and included art works by leading Czech artists and craftsmen. Czech textile factories produced carpets designed by artists such as Alphonse Mucha (1860–1939) and Josef Maria Olbrich, and an artists' cooperative created glass, ceramics, furniture, jewelry, and textiles in art nouveau styles. After 1900, Czech designers moved away from French influences to adopt a more geometric style. Jan Kotěra (1871–1923), an influential art professor, advocated the primacy of function over decoration. He designed a strikingly simple crystal glass punch bowl and glasses for the St. Louis World's Fair of 1904. His later furniture and architecture emphasized cube-like forms and prefigured Art Deco and cubist styles.

northern europe

In Finland, the Jugend style was spearheaded by Gottlieb Eliel Saarinen (1873–1950) and his associates Herman Gesellius (1874–1916) and Armas Lindgren (1874–1929), whose architecture firm was known as G. S. and L. The Finnish Pavilion they designed for the 1900 Paris Exposition Universelle resembled a Finnish country church, with rough stone, a large semi-circular entrance, a horizontal band of windows, a shingle roof, and a stocky tower crowned with folk-inspired motifs. The firm went on to win the competition to design the National Museum, a restrained granite and wood structure that housed Finnish archaeological, historical, and ethnographic collections. In 1900 Saarinen designed the Suur-Merijoki Farm. The home's interior, which featured vivid colors and abstract folk motifs, had built-in furniture, tiles, stained glass, tapestries, and ryijy rugs, all carefully designed to create a harmonious whole. The partners then designed Hvitträsk, a residential complex and studio that housed their three families until the partnership broke up in 1905.

In Moscow, stil modern (as art nouveau was known) artists sought to fuse international influences and native folk motifs. Fyodor Shekhtel (1859–1926), Russia's leading art nouveau architect, transformed the Moscow railway station, creating a hat-like roof above the entrance reminiscent of a northern Russian church. He later designed a house that successfully fused modern and traditional elements: the interior featured a dramatic staircase that resembled a cascading waterfall while the exterior presented more sedate rectangular lines, with a mosaic border of orchids below the roof line.

See alsoFin de Siècle; Furniture; Gaudí, Antonio; Painting; Paris.


Fahr-Becker, Gabriele. Art Nouveau. Cologne, 1997.

Greenhalgh, Paul, ed. Art Nouveau: 1890-1914. London and Washington, D.C., 2000.

Masini, Lara-Vinca. Art Nouveau. Translated by Linda Fairbairn. London, 1984.

Silverman, Debora. Art Nouveau in Fin-de-Siè;cle France: Politics, Psychology, and Style. Berkeley, Calif., 1989.

Carol P. Merriman

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Art Nouveau. Style of architecture and the decorative arts that flourished in Europe and the USA from c.1888 to c.1914, featuring asymmetrical compositions; attenuated blooms, foliage, roots, and stems with sinuous flowing lines, as though floating in water; the dream-maiden (female figure with long wavy tendril-like hair known as femme-fleur); stylized rose-bowls; intertwining plant-forms; and indeterminate whiplash curved tendrils. It evolved from some late-Gothic Revival patterns, and owed something, perhaps, to Auricular and Rococo ornament. Proto-typical Art Nouveau capitals at Blackfriars Railway Bridge (1862–4) and Holborn Viaduct (1863–9), both in London, demonstrate that the essence of the style was in place in the early 1860s, while the illustrations in Viollet-le-Duc's hugely influential Entretiens sur l'Architecture (Lectures in Architecture–1872) spread images of free-flowing curved forms throughout Europe and America. Certain artists associated with the Arts-and-Crafts movement, notably Arthur H. Mackmurdo, William Morris, and C. F. A. Voysey produced celebrated designs that fall firmly within the style. Named after the Paris shop (Maison de l'Art Nouveau) of the art-dealer Siegfried Bing (1838–1905—which stocked artefacts that were not reproductions of styles of earlier periods, but were modern and often oriental, and had interiors designed by Henry van de Velde (1896)), the style was associated first with the Aesthetic Movement, and then with modernity (in France it was also known as the Style Moderne, in Spain as Modernismo, Estilo Modernista, or Modernisme (Catalan), in The Netherlands as Nieuwe Kunst (New Art), in Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Scandinavia as Jugendstil (Youth style), and in Italy as Stile Floreale or Stile Liberty (from Liberty's shop in London which stocked Art Nouveau objects), so its new, youthful, and modern associations were emphasized by its various names). In architecture the style reached its heights of virtuosity with the buildings of d' Aronco in Milan, Gaudí in Barcelona, Guimard in Paris, Horta in Brussels, and Shekhtel′ in Moscow. Drawings by Aubrey Beardsley (1872–98), furniture by Louis Majorelle (1859–1926), designs by Margaret Macdonald (1865–1933) and her husband C. R. Mackintosh, graphic work by Alphonse Mucha (1860–1939), glassware by Louis Comfort Tiffany (1848–1913), and architectural designs by Émile André (1871–1933), Basile, Hankar, Hoffmann, Jourdain, Jules Lavirotte (1864–1924), Olbrich, and Louis Sullivan, all display characteristic Art Nouveau elements. Journals such as L'Art Décoratif (Decorative Art), Die Jugend (Youth), Kunst und Kunsthandwerk (Art and Craft), Pan, and The Studio disseminated the style, which was also promoted in German-speaking countries by various Sezession groups (in Austria-Hungary the preferred term was Sezessionstil rather than Jugendstil). In the Ottoman Empire traditional Muslim and Turkish motifs and ways of handling space blended with new ideas from Western Europe, so that some extraordinary Art Nouveau works were erected in Istanbul around 1900: curiously, they are not well known in Europe or America.


Arwas (2000);
Barillari & and Godoli (2002);
Borisova & and Kazhdan (1971);
Borisova,, Sternin,, & and Palmin (1988);
Dierkens-Aubry & and van den Breelen (1991);
Escritt (2000);
Greenhalgh (ed.) (2000);
J. Howard (1996);
Latham (ed.) (1980);
Loyer (1986, 1986a., 1991, 1997);
Nicoletti (1978);
Ogata (2002);
P&R (1973);
F. Russell (ed.) (1979);
Shinomura (1992);
Tahara et al. (2000);
Tschudi-Madsen (1967);
Jane Turner (1996)

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Japanese art, works of art created in the islands that make up the nation of Japan.

Early Works

The earliest art of Japan, probably dating from the 3d and 2d millennia BC, consisted of monochrome pottery with cord-impressed designs (Jomon), also the name for the early period of Japanese art. Later Jomon (1000–300 BC) finds include bone earrings, blades of ivory and horn, lacquer objects, and small clay figurines. The subsequent period of the Yayoi (300 BC–AD 300) produced wheel-thrown pots and large ritual bronze bells known as dotaku. The Kofun period produced simply modeled clay figures of animals, people, houses, and boats known as haniwa, which were placed around tomb mounds.

Buddhist and Chinese Influences

The stylistic tradition of Japanese art was firmly established at the time of the introduction of Buddhism in the 6th cent. The teaching of the arts through the medium of Buddhist monasteries and temples progressed under Korean monks and artisans, who created Buddhist sculpture and pictures representing divinities, saints, and legendary figures. The close relationship between Chinese and central Asian culture is reflected in the objects preserved in the Shosoin depository at Nara. Throughout its history Japanese art has relied heavily on forms and techniques borrowed from China. Rare examples of wall paintings in the golden hall at Horyu-ji, near Nara (early 8th cent.) were based on Chinese Horyoji sculpture based on Korean models, reflecting the T'ang style of painting.

The Nara Period

In the sculpture of the Nara period (710–784) clay figures and statues made in the dry-lacquer process (lacquer applied to a solid core of wood or lacquered cloths placed over some kind of armature) attained great popularity. Representations of Buddhist deities and saints in wood and bronze evolved in style from an elegant thinness in the works of Tori (active c.600–630) to the more massive figures of the 8th and 9th cent., which reflect the style of the later T'ang dynasty in China.

During the Nara period the traditional technical methods of Japanese painting were established. The work was executed upon thin or gauzelike silk or soft paper with Chinese ink and watercolors. It was then mounted on silk brocade or its paper imitation and rolled upon a rod when not in view. The hanging scroll is called kakemono. The long, narrow horizontal scroll (emakimono), unrolled in the hands, usually illustrates a narrative with progressive scenes.

The Fujiwara Period

The Fujiwara period (898–1185) is marked by the crystallization of the Yamato-e tradition of painting (based on national rather than on Chinese taste). Kanaoka (late 9th cent.) was the first major native painter. The famous illustrated scroll of the Tale of the Genji—written in the early llth cent. by Lady Murasaki—with its rich color and subtracted treatment of the features of men and women reflects the extreme sensitivity and refinement of the court during that period. The same delicacy of taste can be seen in the sculpture of Jocho (11th cent.).

The Kamakura Period

In the Kamakura period (late 12th–14th cent.) the country was governed by the military, which preferred boldness to refinement, action to contemplative atmosphere, and realism to formality. The new class created a demand for paintings and sculptures portraying officials, warriors, priests, and poets. The school of the sculptor Jocho was continued by Kokei, Kaikei, and Unkei, the principal Kamakura sculptor. These artists imbued their works with a vigor and attention to realistic detail that was never equaled.

Takanobu and his son Nobuzane were the most esteemed portrait painters of the age. Most of the fine emakimono that survive today are from the Kamakura period. These scrolls are often executed in continuous narrative form, often with accompanying text, with the same figures appearing many times against a unified background. This method of representation was used with utmost skill and imagination in superb scrolls such as the Tales of the Heiji Insurrection (13th cent., Mus. of Fine Arts, Boston). In this art form the affairs of people construe the main focus of the format, whether the subject is religious (Shigisan-engi) or secular (Tales of Ise).

The Muromachi Period

The Muromachi period (1392–1573) ushered in a renaissance of Chinese-style ink painting. The Zen sect of Buddhism, which enjoyed a growing popularity in the early Kamakura period, received the continued support of the new rulers. Ink painting was accepted as a means of teaching Zen doctrine. Such priest-painters as Josetsu, Shubun, and Sesshu are the most revered of Japanese landscapists. Their works are characterized by economy of execution, forceful brushstrokes, and asymmetrical composition, with emphasis on unfilled space. During this period sculpture began to lose its Buddhist inspiration.

The Momoyama Period

Architectural sculpture was on a par with the unprecedented grandeur and ostentation achieved in painted screens of the Momoyama period (1568–1615). At this time constant warfare created a need for many great fortresses. Their interiors were lavishly decorated with screens painted in strong, thick colors against a gold background. The Kano family of artists succeeded in fusing the technique of Chinese ink painting with the decorative quality of Japanese art.

The Edo Period to the Twentieth Century

The school of painting started in the Edo period (1615–1867) by Koetsu Hon'ami and Sotatsu Tawaraya and continued by Ogata Korin and Ogata Kenzan represented a return to the native tradition of Japanese painting. The Deer Scroll (early 17th cent.; Seattle Art Mus.) by Koetsu and Sotatsu exemplifies the happy union of literature, calligraphy, and painting. A great demand for miniature sculptures in the form of ornamental buttons (netsuke) arose at this time, and great masterpieces of carving were produced. Dutch engraving found its way to Japan in this period and influenced such painters as Okyo Maruyama, the leader of the naturalist school, who created pictures with Western perspective.

There arose a new type of art in the form of wood-block prints known as ukiyo-e (pictures of the fleeting floating world), which appealed first to the taste of the lowest, but wealthiest, groups of feudal society. The color-print designers eventually won worldwide recognition and influenced Degas, Whistler, and numerous other Western artists. Among the major ukiyo-e painters are Harunobu, Kiyonaga, Utamaro, Hokusai, and Hiroshige.

Recent Japanese Art

In the mid-19th cent. a few print designers attained distinction, but no masters appeared to equal their predecessors. In the 20th cent. the majority of painters and sculptors have been overwhelmingly influenced by Western styles. Contemporary Japanese painters such as Taikan Yokoyama and Kiyoteru Kuroda have received international acclaim. In lacquerware, ceramics, and textiles traditional forms have been retained, and modern Japanese pottery is widely esteemed.


See R. T. Paine and A. Soper, The Art and Architecture of Japan (rev. ed. 1975); S. Noma, Arts of Japan (2 vol., 1978); J. Stanley-Baker, Japanese Art (1986); P. Fister, Japanese Women Artists, Sixteen Hundred to Nineteen Hundred (1988); R. Lane, Images from the Floating World (1988).

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art nouveau (är´ nōōvō´), decorative-art movement centered in Western Europe. It began in the 1880s as a reaction against the historical emphasis of mid-19th-century art, but did not survive World War I. Art nouveau originated in London and was variously called Jugendstil in Germany, Sezessionstil in Austria, and Modernismo in Spain. In general it was most successfully practiced in the decorative arts: furniture, jewelry, and book design and illustration. The style was richly ornamental and asymmetrical, characterized by a whiplash linearity reminiscent of twining plant tendrils. Its exponents chose themes fraught with symbolism, frequently of an erotic nature. They imbued their designs with dreamlike and exotic forms. The outstanding designers of art nouveau in England include the graphic artist Aubrey Beardsley, A. H. Mackmurdo, Charles Ricketts, Walter Crane, and the Scottish architect Charles R. Mackintosh; in Belgium the architects Henry Van de Velde and Victor Horta; in France the architect and designer of the Paris métro entrances, Hector Guimard, and the jewelry designer René Lalique; in Austria the painter Gustav Klimt; in Spain the architect Antonio Gaudí; in Germany the illustrator Otto Eckmann and the architect Peter Behrens; in Italy the originator of the ornamental Floreale style, Giuseppe Sommaruga; and in the United States Louis Sullivan, whose architecture was dressed with art nouveau detail, and the designer of elegant glassware Louis C. Tiffany. The aesthetics of the movement were disseminated through various illustrated periodicals including The Century Guild Hobby Horse (1894), The Dial (1889), The Studio (begun, 1893), The Yellow Book (1894–95), and The Savoy (1896–98). The works of Beardsley and Tiffany were especially popular.

See definitive studies by R. Schmutzler (1964), M. Rheims (1966), A. Mackintosh, Symbolism and Art Nouveau (1978).

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art nouveau Ornamental style which flourished in most of central and w Europe and the USA from c.1890 to World War I. The idea originated in England with the Arts and Crafts Movement. Focusing mainly on the decorative arts, its most characteristic forms come from sinuous distortions of plant forms and asymmetrical lines. It is sometimes known in France by its English name, the ‘Modern Style’. Outstanding art nouveau graphic artists include Beardsley, Tiffany, and Mucha. Charles Rennie Mackintosh, Antonio Gaudí, and Victor Horta were among its most gifted architects.


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art nou·veau / är(t) noōˈvō/ • n. a style of decorative art, architecture, and design prominent in western Europe and the U.S. from about 1890 until World War I and characterized by intricate linear designs and flowing curves based on natural forms.

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art nouveau a style of decorative art, architecture, and design prominent in western Europe and the US from about 1890 until the First World War and characterized by intricate linear designs and flowing curves based on natural forms.