Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Art Nouveau


OK. I'm going to stop being pretentious. My French is all right, and
certainly I'm comfortable throwing around a few French phrases when I'm
feeling particularly "continental" (and how can you feel otherwise when
you're thinking about art nouveau?).

But I'm also beginning to realize that in all my striving to refer to my
favorite style as l'art nouveau, it was coming out a little, well,
"pretentious" seems to be the only word that comes to mind.

So "art nouveau" it will be from now on!

Loved all the exposure to art nouveau in Brussels. There are so many
variations on the theme, and it's hard to characterize the entire spectrum
of art nouveau that's available in Brussels, but the basics are there, and
they're really all over the place. Brussels, like Paris and Prague (I hear)
and Riga (ditto), is an essential stop on any art nouveau itinerary and I'm
happy I had some time to spend look about.

The photos are my own selection and I guess it's pretty obvious that I
didn't go for the more famous sites and objects. I did, though, have fun
with trying to figure out just what it was - back at the beginning of the
last century - that inspired people to latch on to art nouveau. And through
the intervening years, to keep going on and on with it, so that even in some
of the more modern buildings, one see references to art nouveau, often
attached to (and obviously inspired by) some true item or building or room
or shopfront from the actual art nouveau period.

So the photographs are something of a mélange (there I go again!), just
trying to capture some of the different representations. You see a lot of
these painted borders over doorways, and sometimes they are sculpted into
the surface of the wall (plaster, stone, or what-not). I like the way some
of the building entrances pull it all together, with the doorframes and
window frames, the glass decoration, and the door surrounds all of a piece.
I even found one building where my friend pointed out to me the art nouveau
characteristics of the letterboxes. Such fun!

And I have such fun with the fonts and typefaces, and the adverts of the
period and even the monumental signs and sculptures carried it out in the
lettering. It all seems to come together.

I've tried over the years to come up with some ideas - for myself (I'm not
scholar in these things) - to characterize art nouveau and I guess the
basics for me are the sinuous lines and the delicacy of the "movement" of
the lines. The botanical references please me a lot, too, and then there's
the famous "whiplash line" that for some art nouveau specialists is almost
the most famous characteristic of the style.

Whatever it is, it is a joy to behold, whether in architecture, drawings,
painting, light fixture, door handles, china and glassware, even the
magnificent silver (now reproduced in polished pewter) candlesticks,
sculptures, and such. Great fun.

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