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Art Nouveau

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Looking good enough to eat.

A new style of decorative art that predominated much of the Fin de siècle (The Gay '90s and The Edwardian Era), Art Nouveau's style consists of asymmetric and fluid movements, and naturalistic colors and themes. Its style was applied to every field, notably buildings, crafts, paintings, lithographic posters and furniture.

The movement has influences from drawings of plant life, works by Alphonse Mucha, Pre-Raphaelite paintings, Oriental flavours, and the Neoclassical, Romantic, Post-impressionist and Expressionist movements. The style spread throughout Europe, where its mode was dubbed in many languages, typically termed as "new", "modern" or "young" art. In Germany and Northern Europe, it was called the “Jugendstil” (youth style) or "secession". In Catalonia, it was called "Modernisme," and is associated inextricably with the weirdly-skeletal but delightful architecture of Antoni Gaudí. In Italy, it was called the stile Liberty after the British department store Liberty in London, which apparently supplied a lot of the brightly-coloured fabric Italian artists working in the style liked to use.


Whatever its name, Art Nouveau fell out of favour during or before World War I. The exuberant, richly ornamented style seemed wrong somehow after so much death and destruction and the growing anxiety of the Machine Age. However, it influenced Art Deco and other modernist movements.

This style predominates in much of 1890s-style Steampunk. Note that art movements before 1890 range from Romantic to Impressionist.



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    Anime & Manga 

    Comic Books 
  • Alan Moore's erotic graphic novel Lost Girls is done in this style, suiting its period setting (1913-14).

    Films — Animation 
  • My Little Pony: Equestria Girls: The interior decoration of Canterlot High School seems heavily influenced by this style, with lots of curves and lines evoking plant life.

    Films — Live-Action 

  • Some architecture described in Grinlandia series bears a resemblance to this.
  • John R. Neill's illustrations for the Land of Oz book series were influenced by this style.

    Live-Action TV 
  • A lot of the designs in the early series of Mr Selfridge are classic Art Nouveau. This makes sense, given that Selfridge's was founded during the Edwardian era and featured cutting-edge fashions—which at the time were Art Nouveau.
  • Art Nouveau shows up on occasion in Series 1 of Downton Abbey. While the avant-garde rarely reaches the Yorkshire countryside, we see glimpses in the styles of women's dress and a few magazines. (Subsequent series are set during World War I or the 1920s, so new styles lean towards Art Deco.)

  • Generally speaking, the style made a bit of a comeback during the '60s psychedelic counterculture. The Beatles' Revolver, for instance, is heavily inspired by the works of Aubrey Beasley, who was in turn an influence on the Art Nouveau movement to begin with. This Vox video goes into more detail on the topic.
  • The front cover to Donovan's album "Sunshine Superman" is an almost note-for-note homage to the style; the squiggly, stylized fonts, the muted pastel color scheme, the abundance of decorative curves, it's all there! The only non-Nouveau element of the color is Donovan's Face on the Cover.
  • Fleetwood Mac's "classic" soft-rock era embraced a mid-to-late1970s revival of the Art Nouveau aesthetic. This was particularly evident in the album covers for their two big hit albums, the self-titled "White Album" (1975) and Rumours (1977), which both feature illustrated covers, Art Nouveau-style typefaces, and people in (bohemian) Art Nouveauish clothing.

    Video Games 
  • The Last Express is done entirely in this style.
  • The design of Wonder City and Wonder Tower in Batman: Arkham City.
  • Much of the visual design of Abyss Odyssey, most notably the character portraits.
  • Transistor not only takes place in a futuristic Art Nouveau world that mixes a little bit of Tron with a heaping helping of the works of Gustav Klimt, but the protagonist, Red, seems to be a reference to "Red Hilda", a firey-haired model that served as a muse for many of Klimt's paintings.
  • The Water Temple of Twilight Princess draws a lot of inspiration from Catalan Modernism, especially Gaudí's famous trencadis technique. It's noticeably one of the most beautiful temples of the game.

    Visual Novels 
  • Sweet Enchantments shows quite a bit of Art Nouveau influence in the designs of the eponymous cafe and the uniforms worn by its staff. The architecture and decor incorporate a lot of nature motifs and fluid lines with few hard angles, as though the building grew into place rather than being manmade.

    Real Life 
  • Alphonse Mucha's posters are the Trope Codifier for this style. Mucha’s usual subject — an attractive woman, clad or partly clad in flowing robes, often illustrating the Theiss Titillation Theory but never fully nude, frequently framed by a “halo” or decorative border, staring thoughtfully at the viewer or pensively into space — has become a minor visual trope in its own right, frequently being the subject of Pastiche or Affectionate Parody, as here, here, here, or here.
  • Most buildings in Riga, Latvia.
  • The Nancy School in France.
  • A large number of buildings in central Prague.
  • Most pre-World War II entrances to Le Métropolitain de Paris.
  • Old (pre-World War I) stations on the Vienna U-Bahn. They were designed by "Secession" architects.
  • Majolica House in Vienna.
  • Barcelona is one of the capitals of Art Nouveau (there called Modernisme), especially considering most of Antoni Gaudí's work is there.
    • The unfinished Sagrada Familia Basilica might be one of the most prominent examples.
  • The Arnold Böcklin typeface.
  • Art Nouveau didn’t catch on especially widely in Norway, but when the centre of the town of Ålesund burned down in 1904, it was rebuilt in the Jugendstil (with a lot of money donated from Germany), and it is sold to tourists today as “the Art Nouveau town”.


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