Can you distinguish Art Nouveau and Art Deco? (test your skills)
Art Nouveau (1880-1914) and Art Deco (1920-1940) are very distinct movements with a different look but are often confused, maybe because both start with “Art”. Only a small percentage of the people can distinguish them. Are you one of them?
Both the Art Nouveau and Art Deco movements emerged as reactions to major world events; the Industrial Revolution and World War I, respectively. While both embraced modernist elements, they’re easy to distinguish if you know what to look for.
Can you figure out which pictures are Art Nouveau / Art Deco?
(solution at the end of the article)
About the Chronology of the two art movements it is important to see some similarities:
- Both emerged as a reaction to major world events: Industrialisation (Art Nouveau) and World War I (Art Deco).
- Both disappeared at the advent of a war: World War I (Art Nouveau) and World War II (Art Deco).
Some of the main differences between the two movements:
Art Nouveau is flowing and about curves. It looks to nature and organic elements for much of its inspiration. Flora is widely represented and also animals and insects, both real and imagined, decorate many pieces with bats, dragons, birds and dragonflies as popular motifs. You will find geometry in Art Nouveau, but usually in forms with curving rather than hard edges. Art nouveau is much more decorative, flowing, and floral.
Art Deco is sharp and based on straight lines and corners. It’s about perfect forms, circles and angles. Geometry plays a big part in Art Deco works made during the 1920’s and 1930’s. It was minimalistic and became even more so as the movement progressed through the years. It is considered the first genuinely industrialised style and is characterised by its pure geometric shapes.
After these short descriptions you may reconsider your guesses about the pictures :) If you want to read more about the characteristics of Art Nouveau and Art Deco continue reading...
Art Nouveau (1880-1914)
It means “new art” and embraced Europe’s new industrial aesthetic rather than challenged it. It featured naturalistic but stylised forms, often combined with shapes which were more geometric like parabolas, and semicircles. The movement used forms from the natural world that had not been used for long like insects, weeds, even mythical faeries.
Designs were are asymmetric and they replicated organic forms as trees and vegetation. Curved lines were prefered to straight parallel lines. In architecture the some straight lines were required but the architects tried to make them look visually organic in nature using ornamentation when necessary, and to be in harmony with the natural surroundings if possible. Women depicted in Art Nouveau pieces will often have flowing hair. Those in more provocative poses may have their hair down or even be nude draped in billowy folds of fabric.
The style unifies the styles that emerged in many countries in Europe at about the same time: in Austria it is known as Secessionsstil after Wiener Secession; in Spanish Modernismo; in Catalan Modernisme; in Czech Secese; in Danish Skønvirke or Jugendstil; in German Jugendstil, Art Nouveau or Reformstil; in Hungarian Szecesszió; in Italian Art Nouveau, Stile Liberty or Stile floreale; in Norwegian Jugendstil; in Polish Secesja; in Slovak Secesia; in Russian Модерн (Modern); and in Swedish Jugend.
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Art Deco (1920-1940)
Art Deco took its name, short for Arts Décoratifs, from the Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes held in Paris in 1925. It emerged mainly in France and celebrated the dawn of the industrial age. The style adopted in Art Deco architecture was bold straight lines arranged symmetric like machines with equally bold colours unlike natural shades. Art Deco architecture also used lavish ornamentation in a way that was on your face reflecting the spirit of the times which was predominantly full of confidence enjoying the prosperity brought about by industrialisation and scientific advances. Art Deco also reflects the artistic movement of the era: cubism, fauvism, expressionism, etc.
The deprivations of the Great War years gave way to a whole new opulence and extravagance that defined the Jazz Age and the Art Deco aesthetic. The movement is characterised by streamlined and geometric shapes. It also used modern materials like chrome and stainless steel. If Art Deco dabbled with natural materials, they tended to be graphic or textural, like zebra skin or jagged fern leaves. As a result, Deco featured bold shapes like sunbursts and zigzags and broad curves.
The style has only one name, a factor that makes it easier to have all the documentation unified.
--> Solution to the quiz above: -------> 1, 3, 7, 8, 11 and 12 are Art Deco -------> 2, 4, 5, 6, 9 and 10 are Art Nouveau
This is a general description on how the two movements look like but it is important to take into account that the transitional objects made during the World War I times and the revivals made in these styles through the decades make it more difficult to associate a piece of artwork with a specific movement.
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