Art Nouveau

1 Oct

Art Nouveau is something i’ve had a soft spot for for a long time, and my attraction to the style deepened when I encountered the many continental expressions of it – the more flamboyant stuff, that looks like it might rip free of its moorings and run amok with lethal results, triffid style. The stuff that isn’t going to sell if printed on tea towels and coasters.

This house reminded me of a Hieronymus Bosch monster-

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Truth be told though, what we saw wasn’t quite as wild as I expected. It was an eye-opener so find out that the style took off when the nouveau riche saw it as a way to distinguish themselves and that it was later used by Belgium’s first liberal/socialist coalition, who saw it as a progressive style with practical applications.

Art Nouveau was very diverse in another way too, a way I was more familiar with: its spread across the decorative arts. Some of what we saw was glassware and furniture, some of it we saw on a guided tour of Brussels buildings done in the style. One place we visited on the tour wasn’t generally open to the public, for the very good reason that it was built as a school and is still a school. It’s called School no.1. It was a wonder to see mops, brooms, benches and children’s drawings sat there amongst whiplash mosaics and masonry:

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Various private houses:

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A department store designed by Victor Horta, now the cartoon museum:

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And some items for the home – these were mingled in with the Symbolist paintings in the Fin de Siècle museum:

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