A style in which flowers are such a prevailing element that it got labelled as “floral style” in Italy. Split between two centuries and overcome by the Second World War, Art Nouveau stands for the first attempt at creating a modern style. Even for fabrics.
What’s the Art Nouveau
It was born around 1890 in France, where it was first known as Art Nouveau, but soon spread to Europe and the United States, mainly thanks to the Universal Exhibition in 1900 in Paris. In Italy, the “Liberty style” owes its name to Arthur Lasenby Liberty who, in 1875, opened the Liberty & Co. store. Here he sold textiles imported from the East, at first, and later his own luxury silk fabrics, showing Art-Nouveau patterns.
But which are the main features of the Art Nouveau? From the Arts and Crafts movement, Art-Nouveau artists drew their will to save the beauty of art and handicraft from the standardisation of industrial mass production. In order to accomplish this objective, a new aesthetic taste was applied to architecture interior design, furniture, ceramics, glass making and metalworking, as well as to the graphics of books, newspapers, posters, and to the patterns of fabrics.
All of these expressions of art share a common innovative decorative style, characterised by stylized shapes and whose protagonists are fruit, amphoras, laurel wreaths, birds… and flowers.
The flowers of Art Nouveau
Art Nouveau therefore has its main source of inspiration in nature, whose elements are rendered as wavy lines. The colours are delicate, and pastel shades prevail, especially white, peacock blue, lilac, brown, mustard, olive and sage green. Flowers are wavy, too, with markedly curvy lines and stems turned into tendrils, as, for example, in the handwoven velvet “Liberty” 051-3161.
The rendering of flowers – and of the other natural elements, too – is, on the one hand, overlarge and, on the other, simplified. For instance, petals are not drawn one by one, but rather reduced to a base form, which is then copied again and again. This simplification is stressed by bidimensional figures, often with only some or utterly no shade, and marked by neat contours. And this blurs the line between fine arts and illustrations.