[Victoria and Albert Museum]



 ART NOUVEAU 1890-1914


"We are not only at the beginning of a new stylistic tic phase but at the same time on the threshold of the development of a completely new art"

August EndeIl 1897


In April 2000, the V&A will stage the most comprehensive and largest exhibition on the theme of Art Nouveau Art Nouveau 1890 1914 since the style was in its heyday in the fin de siècle period. Stylistically, it was a period where utility and function were less important than symbolism, psychology, sexuality and drama. The Art Nouveau style consisted of a group of movements that gave Europe and America some of the most unusual and spectacular objects and buildings ever made.

This exhibition will capture the spirit of the Art Nouveau period through a breath-taking display of objects incorporated within a stunning exhibition space. Art Nouveau 1890 - 1914 will include masterpieces in painting, sculpture, ceramics, glass, textiles, furniture, jewellery, graphics and architecture, all drawn from extensive public and private collections throughout Europe and North America. On display will be works from such world famous artists and designers as Aubrey Beardsley, Louis Comfort Tiffany, Henri de Toulouse Lautrec, Antoni Gaudi, Charles Rennie Mackintosh, Alphonse Mucha, Emile Gallé and René Lalique.
In the 1 900s Art Nouveau was everywhere. It was both elite and vulgar, loved and hated. It decorated palaces and biscuit tins, pornography and train sheds. No single architect or artist, designer or school epitomised the 'New Art'. It came into fruition in a number of cities with the concept that all artists should work in harmony in all media to create an all-encompassing 'lifestyle environment', a total work of art.

Art Nouveau was dependent for its growth on a new society committed to buying and selling modern luxury goods. Designers embraced the new tools of promotion and dissemination to sell their products to the widest possible audience. Advertising, department stores, mail order catalogues, trade fairs and international exhibitions gave unprecedented opportunity for the sale of 'modern dreams' as interpreted by the Art Nouveau artists and designers.

Because of the dramatic social changes that took place at the turn of the last century, parallels can be drawn between the passing of the 20th century and the dawning of the next. A whole new social climate of urbanisation and modernisation set up the conditions that created the Art Nouveau style. Therefore it was inevitable that artists and designers would attempt to modernise culture in the form of art, architecture and design, so that it could remain relevant to the people for whom it was created.

Art Nouveau designers took their inspiration from many sources: from previous European styles such as the Gothic and Rococo, from cultures outside Europe, including China, Japan, North Africa and Indonesia, and from the worlds of science and literature. The exhibition will explore these diverse sources and bring to light some of the prevalent themes of the age: degeneracy, progress, nature, eroticism, mysticism and consumerism.
It will also examine the urban phenomenon of art and design in the early modern urban context by focusing on a number of fin-de-siècle cities -eight in total - Paris, Brussels, Glasgow, Helsinki, Munich, Vienna, New York and Budapest.

The spectacular book accompanying the exhibition entitled: 'Art Nouveau 1890-1914' is edited by the curator of the exhibition Paul Greenhalgh. It will be the most comprehensive book written on the style to date and explores all aspects of Art Nouveau art and architecture through contributions from leading experts worldwide.


[Victoria and Albert Museum]