Art Nouveau: Ideas Inspire Innovation

“Great nations write their autobiographies in three manuscripts – the book of their deeds, the book of their words and the book of their art.”  John Ruskin

The Belgian journal L’Art Moderne, in the early 1880s, used the phrase Art Nouveau to describe a group of progressive Belgian artists working under the group name of Les Vingt (20 artists). These artists challenged the status quo by creating a new style. They were not alone. Many artists from Europe and America were on the same wavelength because they were all reading, or rather devouring, the works of French Gothic revival architect, Eugene-Emmanuel Viollet-le-Duc and the influential British art critic, John Ruskin.

Viollet-le-Duc is famous and respected for his restorations at Cathédrale Notre Dame de Paris. John Ruskin advocated a holistic approach to the arts and removed the obstacles that existed between artistic disciplines. Even now, he is known as having foreseen the interest in environmentalism and sustainability.

Art evolves from our need to understand, control and organize our lives in order to maximize happiness and improve circumstances. Creativity validates ideas by communicating messages through dynamic, emotional and social images. I believe that idea inflows become creative outflows. In other words, ideas inspire innovation.

Art Nouveau came into being at a time when people were tired of the usual repetitive forms and techniques. They wanted more than “the same old, same old!” Who could blame them? The furniture and paintings from the Renaissance and Gothic periods had run their course. It was time to move on and make a fresh start with something new.

“When love and skill work together, expect a masterpiece.”  John Ruskin

To be continued, with the defining moment, Oscar Wilde & Aubrey Beardsley….

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Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris