Art Nouveau Architecture ................................. Illustrated FURNITURE Glossary

Furnishings - Art Nouveau

Proportions Elongated.

Essential elements Sinuous elongated forms. Elaborate carving or inlay. Floral, curving, and various organic motifs.

Woods Oak for mass-produced pieces; mahogany, rosewood, maple, or exotic woods such as amboyna for elegant examples.

Notable forms All types.

- Marvin D. Schwartz, American Furniture: Tables, Chairs, Sofas and Beds. 2000

The French "new art" that took bold in Europe and America in the 1890's.

The style became prominent in Europe in the 1890s, affecting virtually every branch of design from glassmaking to architecture. Although the Art Nouveau style was a major force in European design, it had only a limited following in the United States.

It was strongly influenced by Japanese and Gothic art forms. Aubrey Beardsley, the illustrator, William Morris, the designer, and James Ensor, the Belgian painter, were prime forces. Horta and Van de Velde were outstanding names in the interiors done in this style as were Charles Rennie Mackintosh in Scotland, Hector Guimard in France, and Antonio Gaudi in Spain.

Some critics interpret the Art Nouveau style as a turn-of-the-century reinvention of the Rococo. Art Nouveau is characterized as sinuous, organic, and sensuous - the essence of Rococo.

See also: Michael Thonet


The style used flat patterns of twisting plant forms based on nature, sometimes tortured. It was characterized by its use of fluid, sinuous lines and organic, elongated forms,


In America, a few disciplines, such as glassmaking, fell under its sway, but furniture designers rarely adopted the style as a whole. Instead they employed isolated motifs.

In 1904, at the Saint Louis fair, the French Pavilion exhibited numerous pieces executed in the Art Nouveau style. Shortly afterward, major Midwestern manufacturers, especially those in Grand Rapids, Michigan, began to produce furniture somewhat reminiscent of the French prototypes.

These American examples generally combine an Eastlake or Rococo Revival form with applied floral decoration and whiplash curves in a vaguely Art Nouveau manner.

Examples from Buffalo:

Other examples:

Photos and their arrangement © 2005 Chuck LaChiusa
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