Art Nouveau

(1901 - 1921)

About

Art Nouveau

 

Jugendstil (’youthful style’) in German, Secession in Austrian. For Italians, Stile Floreale (‘floral style’), but the name Stile Liberty (‘Liberty style’) also occurs after a local department store selling famous Art Nouveau and Far Eastern artifacts. The French call Art Nouveau (‘new art’), the Spanish Modernismo, and in the Scandinavian countries Nationell Romantisk Stil (‘national romantic style’). In Hungary, the term ’Secession’ has become widespread, meaning ‘separation, withdrawal’, and was originally used for exhibition venues set up against (Austrian and German) academies. Not only the names but the style was realized differently in each country - although this diversity does not contradict the universal and international nature of Art Nouveau.

 

A common feature of Art Nouveau, on the one hand, is rebellion against prevailing conventions in general, conservative aesthetic principles, and official art institutions. The ‘new art’ was tired of imitating historical styles (historicism) as well as of their unprincipled mixing (eclecticism). Art Nouveau wanted to respond to the present and was the first to try to reconcile the traditional aspirations of art with the modern image of the technical age. There was also a romantic, utopian- driven confrontation with the modern world, as he protested vehemently over the impersonality of mass production. Crafts have become the key word! On the other hand, a common feature is that Art Nouveau believed in the role of shaping and organizing society, that it could be the style-creating need of its time, and instead of the traditional branches of fine arts (such as painting or sculpture), it created a lasting place in applied arts and architecture. Art Nouveau made no distinction between high and applied art. His desire was to create a kind of “Gesamkunstwerk” to reshape the material world (furnishings and objects of use), the visual culture of the age (typology, advertising graphics, posters), new buildings (railway stations, bridges, exhibition halls) as a result of technical and scientific progress, for which it used the most modern solutions and materials (eg steel, reinforced concrete, glass). It is due to all this that Art Nouveau is not only considered a style trend, but the one which fundamentally defined the art of the turn of the century. Its aim was presenting independent and unprecedented art works which shared ‘novelty’ in common.

 

 

Historical overview

 

The history of Art Nouveau can be traced back to the second half of the 19th century, which was one of the most controversial periods in human history. On the one hand, the unprecedented development of technology and science, the elimination of feudal relations, the disintegration of the modern industrial and globalized world. On the other hand, the disappearance of the unified worldview, the crisis of the intellectual sphere, the escalation of social differences, the exploitation. This is the period when colonization is gaining new momentum, strengthening colonial empires, and it is also the age of the formation of nation-states that coincided with civil transformation. From an artistic point of view, Europe’s cultural hegemony persisted, but the arts of other continents and foreign cultures (e.g., Japan, Egypt) and the hitherto provincial countries (e.g., Russian literature) became increasingly important. World exhibitions played a huge role in this. However, the immediate antecedents of the ‘new style’ are the English Pre-Raphaelite and Arts and Crafts movements, which have in common a desire to go back to historical times when art was still intertwined with life and work. And their art, which restored the spirit of medieval guilds, contained many decorative elements. It is thanks to the theoretical work of John Ruskin (1819-1900) that the social, moral, and aesthetic principles of Art Nouveau were laid down and to William Morris (1834- 1896) who put all this into practice. The latter was also exemplary in that he was one of the first artists to design his own house (Red House, 1858) and furnish it with furniture and objects made by him. According to Morris, a beautiful environment created by art can change a person's mentality and sense of social responsibility, bringing them closer to the perfect human ideal. Art Nouveau thus first developed on English and then Scottish land, and from there spread to the old continent.

 

The characteristic of Art Nouveau is that several schools, workshops, groups, or artists' colonies in different countries were formed in roughly parallel, so that the new style could be applied uniformly in the various branches of art. These all-arts societies have paid close attention to setting up joint workshops, organizing exhibitions, supporting young artists, reforming the education system and, finally, integrating traditional crafts and the arts into industrial production. Typically, magazines (eg Revue Blanche in Paris; Jugend in Munich, The Studio in London, Ver Sacrum in Vienna) clustered, but new initiatives were not so much in big cities but in more unknown (provincial) places like Glasgow, Darmstadt, Weimar, Munich, Barcelona, ​​Nancy, Brussels, Vienna, Chicago, Gödöllő or Kecskemét.

 

Art Nouveau was not uniform in terms of style either. Its first wave, which lasted from about the 1890s to 1905 and culminated in the Paris World's Fair in 1900, was characterized by floral, vegetative, organic lines, which were very popular, especially in Belgium and France. The second wave, on the other hand, was marked by the art of the mature German Jugendstil and Wiener Werkstätte, characterized by a gradual simplification of decoration in favour of function, stricter lines and the use of geometric shapes paving the way for avant-garde and art deco art.

 

In Hungary, like with other nations in Central and Eastern Europe who fought for their independence, Secession became a source of artistic renewal, intertwined with the need to create a national style. Although the name was taken from the Austrians, the first stage in the domestic appearance of the new art was characterized by the influence of the English Arts and Crafts movement and French and German contemporaries. Ödön Lechner (1845-1914), the Hungarian innovator of architecture, created an independent Art Nouveau architectural style combining with folk and oriental motifs. His most significant works are the Museum of Applied Arts (1891-1896), the Institute of Geology (1898- 1899) and the Postal Savings Bank (1899-1901). The architectural branch of the style was completed in the works of Lechner's students (eg Lajos Kozma, Károly Kós, Béla Lajta, István Medgyaszay).

 

The first major Hungarian Art Nouveau works of art were made in the 1890s by our artists who studied and lived in the centers of European painting (Munich, Paris). The new style in the oeuvre of Hungarian painters usually covered only one period or one work at a time, but it affected all our major artists at the turn of the century (eg István Csók, József Egry, Károly Ferenczy, Béla Iványi Grünwald). József Rippl-Rónai's (1861-1927) painting of a Woman in a White Polka Dot Dress (1889) painted in Paris is already related to the new style. Not long after, as a member of the Nabis group, in his most significant works of his so-called ‘black period’, the delicacy, the sensuality, the mystery, as well as the avoidance of plasticity, the gracefully curved outlines or the decorative world of form, are also signs of the new style. Rippl-Rónai dealt with design and applied arts too: "not only carpets close to my paintings, but I also designed plates, glass and furniture to suit my taste" he wrote in his memoirs about this period. János Vaszary (1867-1939) painted his naturalist-secessionist-symbolist works of art in the mid-1890s whose peculiarity is that he painted his visions of biblical-mythology in shades of green. The most famous of these is the Golden Age (1898), which considered to be the first real Hungarian Art Nouveau painting. The painting was selected for the 1900 Paris World’s Fair, where it was awarded a bronze medal. Its mystical atmosphere is given by the dark background and the contrast between the almost fluorescent naked figures, the opaque green color. The gilded frame carved by the artist is an integral part of the composition. Vaszary's works from this period can be related to the paintings of Ludwig von Hoffman (eg Dreaming, 1898), Gustav Klimt (eg Pallas Athena, 1898) or Hans Thoma (eg Loneliness, 1896). The oeuvre of Lajos Gulácsy (1882-1932) and Tivadar Kosztka Csontváry (1853-1919) did not fall into categories, they created a unique style, and in their lives they both received their work incomprehensibly. They are both Art Nouveau artists as much as Gauguin, an exit from the age that brings them to a common denominator. Gulácsy's longing for the past, towards the Italian medieval and renaissance or the Rococo world of Watteau, while Csontváry’s ‘mission’ that took him to the Middle East, sought not only the great motif but also the source of Hungarian art, were very similar to Gauguin’s escape to Tahiti. Géza Faragó (1877-1928) continued his studies in Paris from 1897, where he was successfully admitted to the famous Arts Décoratifs. He worked in Alfons Mucha’s Atelier for two years and then he opened his own studio. Returning to Hungary, he also visited Szolnok and Kecskemét. He was a master of cartoons, and he is considered one of the pioneers of Hungarian poster art (Poster of the Holzer Fashion House, 1902; The Symbolist, 1908).

 

While the previous artists typically went on individual paths and became acquainted with Art Nouveau, by the turn of the century several groups of artists had emerged, which were more or less influenced by the idea of ​​the new style (eg Szolnok, Kecskemét, Gödöllő School). KÉVE (Association of Hungarian Fine and Applied Artists) was founded in 1907 by the students of Ferenc Szablya Frischauf, with the aim of expanding the limited exhibition and sales opportunities of its members in Hungary. The group did not strive for uniform a style, but united the different ones, such as naturalism, Art Nouveau, post-Impressionism, or Fauvism trends into an art association. It also differed from earlier or contemporary Art Nouveau groups in that it was attached to the capital. At the same time, it was important that the diversity of the style was realized in the genre as well, and that they form a unified overall picture in their annual exhibitions. KÉVE published its own quarterly journal where the forerunner was Ver Sacrum. In addition to typographic care and uniformity, the content primarily reflected all artistic endeavours. Among the members of KÉVE, there are the most significant representatives of the Gesamkunstwerk principle, such as Lajos Kozma or the former artists from Gödöllő: Jenő Remsey, Rezső Mihály and Ödön Moiret. They all represented the geometrizing, functional direction of the second phase of Art Nouveau, and their role models were no longer the English masters, but primarily the Wiener Werkstätte and the German Jugendstil. Lajos Kozma's (1884-1948) early series of ink drawings from 1908, entitled The Great Sonata reveals the influence of the English graphic artist Aubrey V. Beardsley, who died at a young age, and had an exhibition a year earlier in Budapest. Beardsley’s sensually winding, black-and-white, often erotic and symbolist illustrations were a prototype of Art Nouveau graphics. Kozma, who originally graduated as an architect, went to Paris in 1909 to study painting at Henri Matisse's school for a year. When he returned home, he became a member of the group of young architects (the Society of Young People), with whom they tried to create a modern, at the same time national architecture (so-called the Hungarian style). Kozma first appeared at the KÉVE exhibition in 1911, with his graphics, illustrations, and furniture designs. From 1912, he also made works of applied art. Following the example of the Wiener Werkstätte, Kozma founded the Budapest Workshop in 1913, with the aim of reforming residential art. At the picturesque departure of Jenő Remsey (1885-1980), the Art Nouveau tone was mixed with social sensitivity in the 1910s (e.g. The Babysitter; Goddess of Fate). His early painting of his wife (Portrait of My Wife, 1910) is a true portrait of Ceres, highlighting the importance of the family life and the connection with nature. He then made biblical-themed works from the early twenties but found his true style when the main object of his paintings became the study of the picturesque representation of light. At the beginning of his career, Mihály Rezső (1889-1972) also came under Beardsley's influence, mainly avoiding the use of contrasts and dynamic, dotted lines (eg Rococo scenes; Pierrot series, Tristan and Isolda; fairy tale illustrations). He already worked in Gödöllő in 1908, and soon after he was found among the members of KÉVE. He designed carpets, created advertising graphics, and participated in the design of many interiors with Kozma. The early graphics of Gyula Tichy (1879-1920) (Allegory, 1899; Temporality, 1901; Binge, 1902) show the influence of Alfonz Mucha and Gustav Klimt in their colours, decorativeness, and form. Around 1906, Tichy discovered the temperature technique, which led to an explosive development in his art. His literary, historical-themed works are characterized by using clean, velvety colours, decorativeness, the pursuit of flatness, and the gloomy, sultry atmosphere of the “fin de siècle” (e.g., My Queen I, II). His best- known work is his linoleum engraving album, Tales of an Inched Glass (1909), which, according to a contemporary critique, is a “wonderful blend of Hellenism and Japaneseism”. Gyula had exhibitions in Vienna and Munich in 1914 which were well received by the foreign press. His brother, Kálmán Tichy (1888-1968), was not only a fine artist but also a writer, museologist, ethnographer, and local historian. His early works reveal the world of imagination, fantasy and fairy tale (eg. Extasy, 1902), while his later landscapes, still lifes and genre paintings radiate more naturalistic vividness and Art Nouveau decorativeness (eg Autumn Pomp; Sack Bearers, 1917).

 

Gödöllő Artist’s Colony The Gödöllő artists' colony was the most significant workshop of the European Art Nouveau movements in Hungary. His departure dates to around 1901, when Aladár Körösfői-Kriesch moved to the town with his family. A whole colony of artists was soon organized around their house, seeking to renew art by combining work and life, based on the basic ideas of Christianity (family, home, love). They sought to create a total art that feeds on the ancient motifs of the Hungarian folklore and replaces traditional bourgeois art. The group was influenced by the principles of Pre-Raphaelism, Ruskin and Morris, and Tolstoyanism. The economic operation of the colony was ensured by the waving school, which was founded in 1904. In addition, almost all fields of fine and applied arts were practiced in Gödöllő: leatherwork, furniture making, glass window design, fresco and panel painting, graphics. In the following years, Sándor Nagy, István Zichy, Endre Frecskay, Ödön Moiret, Rezső Mihály and Jenő Remsey moved to Gödöllő. As a unified group, they performed only once at home in the National Salon in 1909, where they presented the activities of the artists' colony. Aladár Körösfői-Kriesch (1863-1920) and Sándor Nagy (1868-1950) played the biggest role in the development of their aesthetic and artistic program. They put the ideological message ahead of the purely formal problems. A great number of program paintings summarizing their aesthetic and philosophical principles (e.g., The Good Governor, 1907; The Source of Art, 1907; The Vow, 1908). Motifs collected in Transylvania reappeared in their works beside historical (eg Klára Zách I., II., 1911), biblical-mythological (Ave Myriam, 1904; Miksa Róth: Faun and Nympha) themes containing symbolic elements, and Hungarian-Hun legends and folktales (eg Székely Folktales, 1912; István Zichy: Hunor and Magyar, 1905). The connection between family and nature were also important in their art (Sándor Nagy: Our Garden, 1902; Ferenc Sidló: Family, 1909). They were in contact with artists like Walter Crane and Akseli Gallén-Kallela who visited Hungary. They attempted to reform lifestyles, eating habits and clothing. Around 1910, the ornamental-geometric style of Art Nouveau became dominant in Hungarian architecture and applied arts for a while. Thanks to the art colonies and groups of artists, Art Nouveau, and multi-directional design work, combined with other picturesque directions, continued to live during the first world war, and then gradually merged into the Hungarian avant-garde and art deco trends.

Artworks in this theme

Baboonia (1910)

Gyula Tichy

Air castles (1910)

Álmos Jaschik

Skiers (1924)

Zoltán Remsey

Street in Castelnuovo (1918)

Jenő György Remsey

At the Glacier (1910)

Kálmán Tichy

Walk by the skating rink (1908)

Kálmán Tichy

The Ensemble (1910)

Gyula Tichy

Design for a glass window (1927)

Sándor Nagy

The Spring (1919)

Attila Sassy

The Harvesters (1910)

Sándor Muhits

Faun and Nymph (1910)

Miksa Róth

Portrait of writer Lydia Kovács (1913)

Aladár Kacziány

related artists

Gyula Tichy

(1879 - 1920)

see artist page

Álmos Jaschik

(1885 - 1950)

see artist page

Sándor Nagy

(1869 - 1950)

see artist page

Jenő György Remsey

(1885 - 1980)

see artist page

Zoltán Remsey

(1893 - 1925)

see artist page

Kálmán Tichy

(1888 - 1968)

see artist page

Arnold Gara

(1882 - 1929)

see artist page

Attila Sassy

(1880 - 1967)

see artist page

Sándor Muhits

(1982 - 1956)

see artist page

Mariska Undi

(1877 - 1959)

see artist page

János Tábor (Taupert)

(1890 - 1956)

see artist page

Miksa Róth

(1865 - 1944)

see artist page

Aladár Kacziány

(1887 - 1978)

see artist page