Jugendstil, Art Nouveau (about 1900 - 1920)

There are different explanations about the origin of the term Jugendstil.

The magazine "Die Jugend" was published in 1896 in Munich - it was a magazine specially for avant-garde artists of that time. This magazine was very much appreciated and in that way gave the name to the artistic movement Jugendstil.

In the same year the dealer Siegfried Bing founded a shop for objets d'art in Paris, called "Maison de l'Art Nouveau". Having chosen this name, we find the connection to the expression "Art Nouveau". One must say, that the term "Art Nouveau" (New Art) reflects the mood of the turn of the century in the best way, which was to leave tradition behind and to set out for new goals.

But as for other artistic developments, the roots are also in this case manifold:

1. Social background:

In the course of the Industrialisation, traditional craft lost its importance and had to leave its place to the cheaper massproduction. But one can also notify tendencies against massproduction, especially in Great Britain, the country of the origin of Industrialisation.

William Morris (1834-1896) and his movement Arts and Crafts can be regarded as an important forerunner for the Jugendstil. It was decided to approve objects of outstanding individuality, great value was put on the exclusive and exquisite craftsmanship - a clear aim was to establish a form of high-quality production in contrast to mass production. Architecture, painting and sculpture, all disciplines should form an entire objet d'art. In consequence, schools for applied arts were founded or already existing ones followed this new spirit in production. The use of new materials like steel, iron and glas were newly used in architecture - which also created new possibilities in construction.

2. arthistorical background.

Historism, the resumption of traditional styles like f.e. the Gothic or Baroque period, were no longer sufficient for artists, avant-garde movement was searching for a new way of expression, a new style, that would symbolise the creative spirit of the age.

Different tendecies were formed and new main-focusses on artistic expression were set. What can be found in nearly all the groups is the using of floral elements. Ornaments in form of plants dominate the design of various objects, whether or not it was needed for everyday use or schould act as decoration. Furthermore one notices using the representation of different animals - with the same intention - to bring rural forms into towns.

Nature was the declared model for the elaborately binded plants and blossoms designed by the Czech artist Alfons Mucha (1860 - 1939). These forms were also applicated in architecture - as with the Spanish architect Antonio Gaudi (1852-1926), whose inventive buildings - mainly in Barcelone - seem to be nealy an living oranism, a living organism removed from a stony wall. Beauty should become a part of everyday's life.

The entrances for the Metro in Paris from Hector Guimard represent ornamental "bijoux" of Paris or houses and flats from the "School of Nancy", which were constructed under the aspect of beauty. The avant-garde tendency of Art Nouveau spred all over Europe, for exemple to Prague, where Jan Kotera designed the Peterka-House on Wenzelsplatz in every detail, up to the doorhandles. Artists used symbolic figures, animals, historical figures to represent certain virtues and aims.

Glorification and mysticism are closely connected to the Jugendstil. Mainly male artists presented young women as angellike, supernatural creatures, reducing these creatures on pleasure and sensualiy.

Jugendstil comprises all disciplines in art: architecture, painting, sculpture, literature. Great artists were following this movements, just to mention some: Gustav Klimt - the Austrian painter in whose paintings ornament and figures become one, Josef Maria Olbrich - the Austrian architect, who designed the building for the members of the Secession, which was to become a key work of Viennese Art Nouveau.

The Jugendstil in Vienna has a special postition within the international development. Interational artists such as Antonio Gaudi, Emile Galle, Henry van de Velde, Victor Horta, Hector Guimard and many more designed important works of art for the Jugendstil.

The Viennese Jugendstil and his special role in art history:

In the late 19th century there was quite accordance between the Viennese artists and there colleague in France, Belgium, and England.

Starting with the 14th exhibion of the Viennese Secession (1902) there was a strict move to independency from other countries with the benchmark of The "Suppraportenrelief", a cubistic engraving in plaster, designed by Josef Hoffmann for the foyer of the Secession building.

Hoffmans explanation for his favour for circles and squares was, that these forms never have been used before in applied and fine arts.

If one consider, that the term "Cubism" was used only from 1907, after Picasso has developed a new interpretation in history of arts, the importance of Josef Hoffmanns step from 1902 can be appeciated.

Foto: Karolinsky-Archive