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The Art Nouveau Movement's Enduring Legacy

Tanzy Ward

The Art Nouveau Movement (c.1890-c.1915) was created in France and short lived due partly to the onset of World War 1 (1914-1918). The designs of The Art Nouveau Era (which means 'New Art') were inspired by the natural world. Popular motifs included insects such as butterflies and dragon flies. Often times in Art Nouveau jewelry, the pieces emphasized a woman's physical features, being surrounded in a serene nature setting, and mythical creatures such as mermaids. The artistic merit and natural beauty of semi-precious stones were emphasized in Art Nouveau jewelry as opposed to value. Moonstones, opals, amethyst, malachite, and enamel were all used in many different jewelry pieces of this time period.

The Art Nouveau Era jewelry designs were quite different from Victorian pieces, which were more heavier or bulkier at times. However, Art Nouveau Era pieces were sometimes considered 'exaggerated' or 'over the top' compared to the mainstream popular Edwardian Era (c.1901-c.1915) jewelry that were being produced during the same time period. Presently, the Art Nouveau Era is now retrospectively analyzed from a historical perspective and the artistic designs were greatly influenced by major societal changes. Many Art Nouveau Era jewelry is centered on women due to the interest & focus on women's rights, and the radical possibilities that were implemented after France's lost in the Franco-Prussian War (1870-1871). The jewelry was not worn by most of society, but the aesthetic and influence can be seen in pop culture at the time. French stage actress Sarah Bernhardt (1844-1923) was a fan of Art Nouveau jewelry, and she routinely wore French designer's Rene Lalique (1860-1945) accessories. Lalique's artistic designs are great Art Nouveau Era examples, which included elaborate French perfume bottles and intricate glass art. In cinema, 'trick films' created by Segundo de Chomón (1871-1929) emphasized the Art Nouveau aesthetic, such as the 1907 film 'Easter Eggs'.    

(French Stage Actress Sarah Bernhardt, pictured in Art Nouveau style )

(Art Nouveau style film 'Easter Eggs',1907, A Segundo de Chomón film) 

 

The Art Nouveau Era was considered a time of original style and imagination-themed designs from the vibrant European arts scene. The aesthetic of Art Nouveau pieces often emphasized an ethereal and artistic feel. Even after The Art Nouveau's brief jewelry era, many designers have emphasized the period's characteristics within their own creations. There are now many modern designs that emphasize the setting of jewelry with a semi-precious gemstones such as opal or amethyst, and enamel details with an artisan flair. Although the Art Nouveau Era was rather brief, it's inspiration can still be seen more than a century later. 

(Antique Art Nouveau Amethyst Stone & Gilded Gold Tone Brooch, zanathiajewelry.com) 


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