In my opinion, second only to today, the Art Nouveau movement is the most fascinating and dynamic confluence of science and nature, and art. At the end of the nineteenth century, attitudes about the natural world lacked consensus. Nature stood for the decent of man with the new proof of human evolution from animals; it was seen as something to be conquered and displayed as a trophy; with the proliferation of images of far away and previously unseen ecosystems, it was glorified, and inspired awe and fascination in a new way; it was something to flatten and put into order, arranged in an orderly pattern by the artist.
The idea of evolution was not new in 1859 when Charles Darwin published The Origin of Species. The work’s proposal of natural selection based on a multitude of evidence from Darwin’s Beagle expedition was what finally convinced the masses to take the idea more seriously. This new understanding of the human connection with nature inspired many artists to work with the theme. The metaphor of metamorphosis was used again and again in many media addressing how humans are intricately linked to the animal and plant kingdoms. Possibly with less philosophy, many artists worked from expedition notes from far flung lands previously unseen to most Europeans.
Art Nouveau is a complex and fascinating period in art history, especially with respects to nature and our place in it. In this short blog I am only scratching the surface of this rich story, but I recommend to anyone interested in environmental art to explore more.
Master the poster, a new medium due to the ease of reproduction with new technology. Beautiful woman coupled with nature, especially floral motifs were one of Muncha's favorite subjects.
Grasset is another of the poster art masters. Here she looks to tenderly and carefully at the flower. It is clear to see the new interest in the study of nature.
One of the most famous Art Nouveau jewelry pieces. Nature and metamorphosis were common themes in jewelry of the time, a medium that was also exploring new technologies and techniques.
This is a section of Morris wallpaper. Most of his designs relied on curvaceous floral patterns.
Galle was a glass master, using new techniques and creating beautiful functional art, often with a natural motif.
Galle, proving that he has talent in multiple mediums.