Japanese art entailed a great influence on the artists at that time, its composition, its way to represent Nature, the brightness of colors and the expresivity of the outlines encouraged a large number of artists. Furthermore, the japanese decorative arts place a high value on the object and the technique used, which is very much in line with the Arts&Crafts Movement battle on breaking down the existing barriers between the Fine Arts and the Decorative Arts, that had always been considered an inferior art. This particular vision of the japanese art was expressed by all the creative centres throughout their production. The last decade of the 19th century witnessed the arise of the industrialized society and the arstists showed their rejection by proclaming a return to Nature. With an increasing mass production due to the machines, the defense of crafts and artistic processes was advocated. As a result, we find one of the most prolific periods in the Decorative Arts.
Researches on botany and zoology proved to be popular at that time, so the fluid lines of Nature and insects like dragonflies and butterflies were captured in all kinds of objects. The glass works from Émile Gallé workshop are a clear example. This vision of the surrounding world, highly influenced by Japonism, is one of the greatest artistic contributions, not only towards the glass arts but towards the development of the style. Art Nouveau, which managed to overcome the patterns of histocism, seek the stimulation of the senses by a self-controlled erotism shown in its particular vision of the feminine figure, which is half way between reality and fantasy.
Represented either as fairies or nymphs with undulating hair, their naif figures were used to decorate countless objects. But women is also represented as a femme fatale, and characters such as Salomé, Judith or Salammbò became protagonists of this period. Art Nouveau is notable for its new, young, free and modern character; thus, in Germany, the word Jugend (youth) will name the Jugendstil style; the Samuel Bing’s Parisian Gallery, La Maison de l’Art Nouveau will name the French or Belgian artistic current, while in Italy, Stile Liberty will be the term in use. In Spain, it will be called Modernism.
The 1900 Paris World Exhibition, which received almost forty million visitors, provided Art Nouveau and industrial arts with wide dissemination. The style became popular and the industry, plunged into a decorative obssession, started the mass manufacture of all kinds of modernist objects. This will be a time in which the most exquisite art will coexist with a more vulgar one, with poor finishes. Apart from marter pieces of great virtuosity, the decorative workshops produced industrial objects made by production line system, meant to be sold at affordable prices. World War I will end up with the modernist decorative raving and the new design trends will stand for more rational lines. Art Déco style will reflect a new society that has learnt to coexist with the machines in an urban environment.
Translation: Beatriz Hernández Gómez