The Nouveau Art : Revival: 1900 - 1933 - 1966 - 1974
The Nouveau Art
Revival: 1900 - 1933 - 1966 - 1974
Philippe Thiébaut + Marie Dussaussoy, March 5, 2012
Forgotten, discredited even, for many decades, Art Nouveau was rehabilitated in the 1960s in a way that affected the history of art and the art market as much as contemporary creative work (design and graphics). There were many reasons for this revival: tributes paid by the Surrealists in the 1930s, the Organic Design in Home Furnishings competition organised by the MoMA in 1940, major exhibitions put on in New York (Art Nouveau. Art and Design at the Turn of the Century, MoMA, 1959), and in Paris (Les sources du XXe siècle, Musée National d'Art Moderne, 1960).

Carlo Bugatti, chaise
Carlo Bugatti, chaise "Escargot", 1902_Musée d'Orsay-Patrice Schmidt_Adagp, Paris 2009


However, it is not a question of determining the reasons for this renaissance, but of comparing Art Nouveau creations with creative output from 1950 to 1970, in order to highlight the influences expressed in very varied and sometimes unexpected areas, such as furnishings, fashion, advertising, films and even the psychedelic aesthetic.

Tributes from the Surrealists

Before Art Nouveau returned to favour, it had received occasional, limited recognition from the Surrealist group. In 1933, Salvador Dalí published an article in the Minotaure journal entitled "On the Terrifying and Edible Beauty of Art Nouveau Architecture”, illustrated with photographs by Man Ray and Brassaï, devoted respectively to the work of Antoni Gaudí and Hector Guimard. The way they were viewed was coloured by the somewhat unorthodox captions, written by Dalí himself who, several years earlier, with his painting The Enigma of Desire – My Mother, My Mother, My Mother, had paid tribute to the telluric world of the Catalan architect.

Dan Johnson, Chaise
Dan Johnson, Chaise "Gazelle", 1958_Vitra Design Museum_Dan Johnson Studio, Rome


At the same time, Dalí discovered the work of Clovis Trouille (who used to introduce himself as a "survivor of 1900"), delighting in his lack of self-censorship and his recurrent references to Art Nouveau. Whilst Trouille was still referring back to the Palace of Marvels, in 1960, Dalí continued into the 1970s to compare "the ignominious design of Le Corbusier" with the ornamentation of Guimard, which he considered to be "the most libidinous of all".

It was also in the 1930s that the Finnish designer Alvar Aalto created his sinuous, free flowing, expressive shapes, reminiscent of the most abstract creations of Art Nouveau. This master of organic design opened the way for many creators, including Isamu Noguchi with his famous Table basse "IN 50" in 1944.


Carlo Mollino_bureau, 1950_Paris, centre Pompidou_Musée national d'art moderne-Centre de création industrielle-Philippe Migeat.
Carlo Mollino_bureau, 1950_Paris, centre Pompidou_Musée national d'art moderne-Centre de création industrielle-Philippe Migeat.


Organic design

The masters of Art Nouveau continued to favour a close study of living organisms. Some of these masters produced representations of flora and fauna, stylised to varying degrees. Others went down the route towards abstraction: Carlo Bugatti's "Snail" chair prefigures Günter Beltzig's "Floris" chair and even the famous Panton Chair, created in 1959 by the Danish designer Verner Panton which has since become a great classic of contemporary interior design. As for Carlo Mollino's creative works in the 1950s, they recall the frames of Gaudí's furniture.


Hector Guimard,
Hector Guimard, "Fauteuil", 1903_RMN (Musée d'Orsay)-Patrice Schmidt


Later on, the term 'organic' tended to indicate any object whose characteristics were adapted to the demands of the body and mind of modern man. Organic design stood in opposition to the excesses of an icy functionalism that favoured static, rectilinear structures. The new materials – plastic, fibreglass, polyurethane foam, polyamide jersey - promoted a simplified idiom, based on fluidity and rhythmic freedom. The shapes of Verner Panton (Phantasy Landscape), and Olivier Mourgue (Cellule Cafétéria) invite the user to curl up and let the imagination run free.

Alvar Aalto_Vase Savoy, 1933_Helsinki, Design Museo-Rauno Träskelin_Adagp, Paris 2009
Alvar Aalto_Vase Savoy, 1933_Helsinki, Design Museo-Rauno Träskelin_Adagp, Paris 2009


Psychedelism

In 1966, the first psychedelic posters were seen in San Francisco, having first appeared in connection with the rock and pop concerts organised by Bill Graham. The psychedelic graphic designers (Hapshash and the Coloured Coat group, Wes Wilson, Victor Moscoso, etc), with dazzling bravura, introduced everything that Art Nouveau had invented into the domain of signs and images, and appropriated certain themes like hair, the peacock, the androgynous figure or, in contrast, highly sexual figures.


Claude Lalanne_Miroir aux branchages, appart. de Yves Saint laurent, 1974-1985, Londres_Christie's Images Limited 2009_Adagp, Paris 2009
Claude Lalanne_Miroir aux branchages, appart. de Yves Saint laurent, 1974-1985, Londres_Christie's Images Limited 2009_Adagp, Paris 2009


Posters and album covers were a popular medium for this expression. The creative works, whose aesthetic attributes were enhanced through LSD, appealed more to the senses than to reason. They were based on the interplay of curves and counter curves, wild and soft arabesques, and distending the line and liberating colour. Lettering ceased to be independent, following the rhythm of the composition to become part of the fluidity of the image, suggesting the sound waves from rock and pop concerts.

Antoni Gaudi_Miroir pour La Casa Mila, 1906-1910_RMN (Musée d'Orsay)-René-Gabriel Ojéda
Antoni Gaudi_Miroir pour La Casa Mila, 1906-1910_RMN (Musée d'Orsay)-René-Gabriel Ojéda


It's all the rage!

Among the exhibitions that contributed to the revival of Art Nouveau in the 1960s, it was the one dedicated to the illustrator Aubrey Beardsley at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London in 1966 that was the most successful, particularly with young people. Some people even saw in it the beginnings of underground culture. Reproductions in various media of the most famous works of this artist flooded onto the market, whilst the psychedelic idiom continued to spread. When this came together with the newly fashionable Art Nouveau, it had a great effect on the advertising graphics of the time; contemporary magazines provide us with an extensive overview of this.


Émile Gallé_Girandole Coloquintes vers 1902_Nancy, Musée de l'École de Nancy-Claude Philippot
Émile Gallé_Girandole Coloquintes vers 1902_Nancy, Musée de l'École de Nancy-Claude Philippot


Film set design also played a part in the Art Nouveau revival, whether through films set in 1900 – Landru (1962), Judex (1963), La ronde (1964), Hibernatus (1969) for example - or films in a contemporary setting - Les barbouzes (1964), La métamorphose des cloportes (1965), What's New Pussy Cat ? (1965), Cannabis {1969), etc. Similarly, adult comics were inspired by the erotic charge emanating from some Art Nouveau imagery based on the female body. Finally, in the field of interior decoration, and particularly in the production of textiles and wallpaper, many "1900" style designs were revived and adapted to a greater or lesser degree.

Allen JonesTable Sculpture, 1968_Gallery Mourmans, Maastricht_Erik & Petra Hesmerg
Allen JonesTable Sculpture, 1968_Gallery Mourmans, Maastricht_Erik & Petra Hesmerg


Naturalism

In the 1960s, just as in the Art Nouveau period, visual artists joined in developing an alternative and somewhat anti-establishment lifestyle. This became evident in the bold, emblematic works of Allen Jones using female figures in the form of pieces of furniture.


Günter Beltzig, chaise Floris, 1967_Vitra Design Museum_Günter Beltzig Playdesign
Günter Beltzig, chaise Floris, 1967_Vitra Design Museum_Günter Beltzig Playdesign


Couverture de la revue Movie, Paula Prentiss dans
Couverture de la revue Movie, Paula Prentiss dans "What's New Pussycat_14, automne 1965_D.R.


In France, the actions of leading figures like François Mathey, Michel Ragon and Jacques Lacloche encouraged artists to develop their concept of an everyday object that did not depend on design issues but concentrated on the decorative element. At the time, this trend was regarded by art critics as a Baroque revival. In 1966, François-Xavier Lalanne and his wife Claude had made a sensational entrance on to the art scene by reviving the vast Art Nouveau project to seize nature, capture it in all its diversity and return it in all its splendour, but also with a touch of humour, to the everyday setting of 'modern' man.

Albert Angus Turbayne, affiche pour
Albert Angus Turbayne, affiche pour "Peacock", Edition. Macmillan's illustrated standard novels, 1903_Kunstsammlungen Chemnitz - May Voigt


Bonnie MacLeanAffiche pour le concert The Yardbirds, 1967_Sérigraphie_Galerie Janos_D.R.
Bonnie MacLeanAffiche pour le concert The Yardbirds, 1967_Sérigraphie_Galerie Janos_D.R.