a new style | world's fair | sources | nature | the city
was the single most important source for Art Nouveau artists and designers.
As they adapted motifs from the natural world, nature and modernity came
to mean almost the same thing. After the publication of Charles Darwin's
Origin of the Species (1859) and The Descent of Man (1871), artists and
designers began to explore the idea that humankind was no longer above
nature, but inextricably part of it. The idea that people belonged to
an ever-evolving nature led to the wide use of the theme of metamorphosis,
or the fusion of human, animal, and plant forms. René Lalique often
combined flowers, insects, or female figures in his intricate jewelry.
Some designers copied nature in a realistic manner, often in order to
convey a sense of spiritual or pantheistic affinity with the natural world.
Others conventionalized natural forms, creating abstract curvilinear patterns,
such as the whiplash curve, or geometric and linear designs.
and designers working in the French town of Nancy, which in the nineteenth
century was a center of horticultural research, nature was a primary source
of inspiration. Émile Gallé, an accomplished botanist, incorporated
accurate depictions of insect, plant, and animal life into his glass vessels,
while Louis Majorelle based his fluid designs for furniture, lamps, and
other decorative arts on the sinuous forms of flowers and plants.