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Art Nouveau, Vienna Secession, Symbolism & Art Deco - Art History Information

Art Nouveau, also known as Jugendstil (German for 'youth style'), is an international movement and style of art, architecture and applied art especially the decorative arts that peaked in popularity at the turn of the 20th century (1890-1905). A reaction to academic art of the 19th century, it is characterized by organic, especially floral and other plant-inspired motifs, as well as highly-stylized, flowing curvilinear forms.

Art Nouveau's fifteen-year flowering was strongly felt throughout Europe from Glasgow to Moscow to Spain, but its influence was global. Consequently, it is known in various guises with frequent localized tendencies. In France, Hector Guimard's metro entrances shaped the landscape of Paris and Emile Galle was at the center of the school of thought in Nancy. Victor Horta had a decisive impact on architecture in Belgium. Magazines like Jugend helped spread the style in Germany, especially as a graphic artform, while the Vienna Secessionists influenced art and architecture throughout Austria-Hungary. Art Nouveau was also a movement of distinct individuals such as Gustav Klimt, Charles Rennie Mackintosh, Alfons Mucha, Rene Lalique, Antoni Gaudi and Louis Comfort Tiffany, each of whom interpreted it in their own individual manner.

Although Art Nouveau fell out of fashion with the arrival of 20th-century modernist styles, it is seen today as an important bridge between the historicism of Neoclassicism and modernism. Furthermore, Art Nouveau monuments are now recognized by UNESCO on their World Heritage List as significant contributions to cultural heritage. The historic center of Riga, Latvia, with "the finest collection of art nouveau buildings in Europe," was inscribed on the list in 1997 in part because of the "quality and the quantity of its Art Nouveau/Jugendstil architecture", and four Brussels town houses by Victor Horta were included in 2000 as "works of human creative genius" that are "outstanding examples of Art Nouveau architecture brilliantly illustrating the transition from the 19th to the 20th century in art, thought, and society."

Vienna Secession
The Vienna Secession (also known as the Union of Austrian Artists, or Vereiningung Bildender Kunstler Osterreichs) was formed in 1897 by a group of Austrian artists who had resigned from the Association of Austrian Artists, housed in the Vienna Kunstlerhaus. The first president of the Secession was Rudolf von Alt.

The Vienna Secession was founded on 3 April 1897 by artists Gustav Klimt, Koloman Moser, Josef Hoffmann, Joseph Maria Olbrich, Max Kurzweil, Otto Wagner, and others. The Secession artists objected to the prevailing conservatism of the Vienna Kunstlerhaus with its traditional orientation toward Historicism. The Berlin and Munich Secession movements preceded the Vienna Secession, which held its first exhibition in 1898.

Also in 1898, the group's exhibition house was built in the vicinity of Karlsplatz. Designed by Joseph Maria Olbrich, the exhibition building soon became known simply as "the Secession" (die Sezession).

The group earned considerable credit for its exhibition policy, which made the French Impressionists somewhat familiar to the Viennese public. The 14th Secession exhibition, designed by Josef Hoffmann and dedicated to Ludwig van Beethoven, was especially famous. A statue of Beethoven by Max Klinger stood at the center, with Klimt's Beethoven frieze mounted around it.

In 1903 Hoffmann and Moser founded the Wiener Werkstatte as a fine-arts society with the goal of reforming the applied arts (arts and crafts).

On 14 June 1905 Gustav Klimt and other artists left the Vienna Secession due to differences of opinion over artistic concepts.

Unlike other movements, there is no one style that unites the work of all artists who were part of the Vienna Secession. The Secession building could be considered the icon of the movement. Above its entrance was carved the phrase "to every age its art and to art its freedom". Secession artists were concerned, above all else, with exploring the possibilities of art outside the confines of academic tradition. They hoped to create a new style that owed nothing to historical influence. In this way they were very much in keeping with the iconoclastic spirit of turn-of-the-century Vienna (the time and place that also saw the publication of Freud's first writings).

The Secessionist style was exhibited in a magazine that the group produced, called Ver Sacrum, which featured highly decorative works representative of the period. Secessionist architects often decorated the surface of their buildings with linear ornamentation in a form commonly called whiplash or eel style. Otto Wagner's Majolika Haus in Vienna (c. 1898) is a significant example of the Austrian use of line.

Wagner's way of modifying Art Nouveau decoration in a classical manner did not find favour with some of his pupils who broke away to form the Secessionists. One was Josef Hoffmann who left to form the Wiener Werkstatte, an Austrian equivalent of the Arts and Crafts movement. A good example of his work is the Stoclet Palace in Brussels (1905).

Symbolism
Symbolism was a late nineteenth century art movement of French and Belgian origin in poetry and other arts.

Symbolism was largely a reaction against Naturalism and Realism, anti-idealistic movements which attempted to capture reality in its gritty particularity, and to elevate the humble and the ordinary over the ideal. These movements invited a reaction in favour of spirituality, the imagination, and dreams; the path to Symbolism begins with that reaction. Some writers, such as Joris-Karl Huysmans, began as naturalists before moving in the direction of Symbolism; for Huysmans, this change reflected his awakening interest in religion and spirituality.

In literature, the movement has its roots in Les Fleurs du mal (The Flowers of Evil, 1857) by Charles Baudelaire. The aesthetic was developed by Stephane Mallarme and Paul Verlaine during the 1860s and '70s. In the 1880s, the esthetic was articulated through a series of manifestoes and attracted a generation of writers. The works of Edgar Allan Poe, which Baudelaire greatly admired and translated into French, were a significant influence and the source of many stock tropes and images.

Distinct from the movement in literature, Symbolism in art represents an outgrowth of the darker, gothic, side of Romanticism; but where Romanticism was impetuous and rebellious, Symbolist art was static and hieratic.

Symbolism in literature is distinct from Symbolism in art although the two overlapped on a number of points. In painting, Symbolism was a continuation of some mystical tendencies in the Romantic tradition, which included such artists as Caspar David Friedrich, Fernand Khnopff and John Henry Fuseli and it was even more closely aligned with the self-consciously dark and private Decadent Movement.

There were several, rather dissimilar, groups of Symbolist painters and visual artists, among whom Gustave Moreau, Gustav Klimt, Odilon Redon, Pierre Puvis de Chavannes, Henri Fantin-Latour, Edvard Munch, Felicien Rops, and Jan Toorop were numbered. Symbolism in painting had an even larger geographical reach than Symbolism in poetry, reaching Mikhail Vrubel, Nicholas Roerich, Victor Borisov-Musatov, Martiros Saryan, Mikhail Nesterov, Leon Bakst in Russia, as well as Frida Kahlo in Mexico, Elihu Vedder, Remedios Varo, Morris Graves, David Chetlahe Paladin, and Elle Nicolai in the United States. Auguste Rodin is sometimes considered a Symbolist in sculpture.

The Symbolist painters mined mythology and dream imagery for a visual language of the soul, seeking evocative paintings that brought to mind a static world of silence. The symbols used in Symbolism are not the familiar emblems of mainstream iconography but intensely personal, private, obscure and ambiguous references. More a philosophy than an actual style of art, the Symbolist painters influenced the contemporary Art Nouveau movement and Les Nabis. In their exploration of dreamlike subjects, symbolist painters are found across centuries and cultures, as they are still today; Bernard Delvaille has described Rene Magritte's surrealism as "Symbolism plus Freud".

Art Deco
Art Deco was an early twentieth century movement in the decorative arts, that also grew in influence to affect architecture, fashion and the visual arts.

Art Deco derived its name from the World's fair held in Paris in 1925, formally titled the Exposition Internationale des Arts Decoratifs et Industriels Modernes, which showcased French luxury goods and reassured the world that Paris remained the international center of style after World War I. Art Deco did not originate with the Exposition; it was a major style in Europe from the early 1920s, though it did not catch on in the U.S. until about 1928, when it quickly modulated into the Moderne during the 1930s, the decade with which Americanized Art Deco is most strongly associated today.

The term Art Deco was coined during the Exposition of 1925 but did not receive wider usage until it was re-evaluated in the 1960s. Its practitioners were not working as a coherent community.

Corresponding to these influences, the Art Deco is characterised by use of materials such as aluminium, stainless steel, lacquer, inlaid wood, sharkskin, and zebraskin. The bold use of zigzag and stepped forms, and sweeping curves (unlike the sinuous curves of the Art nouveau), chevron patterns, and the sunburst motif. Some of these motifs were ubiquitous- for example the sunburst motif was used in such varied contexts as a lady's shoe, a radiator grille, the auditorium of the Radio City Music Hall and the spire of the Chrysler Building. Art Deco was an opulent style and this opulence is attributed as a reaction to the forced austerity during the years of World War I. Art Deco was a popular style for interiors of cinema theatres and ocean liners such as the Ile de France and Normandie.

A parallel movement following close behind, the Streamline or Streamline Moderne, was influenced by manufacturing and streamlining techniques arising from science and mass production- shape of bullet, liners, etc., where aerodynamics are involved. Once the Chrysler Air-Flo design of 1933 was successful, "streamlined" forms began to be used even for objects such as pencil sharpeners and refrigerators. In architecture, this style was characterised by rounded corners, used predominantly for buildings at road junctions.

Some historians see Art Deco as a type of or early form of Modernism.

Art Deco slowly lost patronage in the West after reaching mass production, where it began to be derided as gaudy and presenting a false image of luxury. Eventually the style was cut short by the austerities of World War II. In colonial countries such as India, it became a gateway for Modernism and continued to be used well into the 1960s. A resurgence of interest in Art Deco came with graphic design in the 1980s, where its association with film noir and 1930s glamour led to its use in ads for jewelry and fashion. This is still the image of Art Deco held in the minds of most Americans.