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Famous Art Nouveau artists bridged the gap between Victorian sentimentalism and Modern simplicity. The mediums and techniques used during this era are iconic, even if the style only spanned a decade or two.
It’s important to realize that art was more than painting on a canvas during the Art Nouveau period. Famous Art Nouveau artists were known for their work in prints, advertisements, glassware, jewelry, and sculpture. The style also infiltrated furniture making and architecture.
Today we’re exploring some of the most notable Art Nouveau artists that either pioneered the movement, evolved the style into something new, or made a contribution that we still talk about today.
Years Alive: 1872 – 1898
Aubrey Beardsley was a prolific and controversial illustrator whose work was inspired by woodblock printing in Japan. He pioneered early Art Nouveau-style posters and was considered an influential contributor to the Glasgow style. Unfortunately, his life and potential as an artist were cut short when he died at 25 from tuberculosis.
Years Alive: 1862 – 1957
Specialty: Jewelry Design
Georges Fouquet was one of the most famous French Art Nouveau jewelry designers. He created museum-worthy jewels in this style until about 1910, when he transitioned his firm to a more transitional, Edwardian style. His father, Alphonse Fouquet, was also a famous jeweler who worked tirelessly to advance his career and open up opportunities for his son.
Years Alive: 1846 – 1904
Specialty: Glass Design
In 1883, Émile Gallé restructured the family glass and furniture-making business to expand its production of Art Nouveau style goods. Gallé encouraged the designers who worked under him to implement natural floral and fauna into their work, which led to many design innovations during this era. He eventually founded the École de Nancy, a coalition of Art Nouveau artists located in Nancy, France.
Years Alive: 1862 – 1918
Gustav Klimt was an Austrian symbolist painter who was part of the Vienna Secession, an art movement that closely mirrored the Art Nouveau movement. Like many Art Nouveau visionaries, Klimt was inspired by Japanese art and the female figure. Notably, his work is some of the most widely sought and fetches some of the highest prices at auction.
Years Alive: 1860 – 1945
Specialty: Glass /Jewelry Design
René Lalique is very well known for his glasswork, but he also created masterful jewelry pieces. He dedicated the first half of his life to learning about art and design, and he dedicated his later years to creating. It didn’t take long for Lalique to become famous. During the course of his life, noteworthy clientele recognized his work, and he won various prestigious awards. His jewelry design innovation was inspired by his desire to “create something that had never been seen before.”
Charles Rennie Mackintosh
Years Alive: 1868 – 1928
Specialty: Water Color
Charles Rennie Mackintosh was an architect and a painter who inspired the beginning of the Art Nouveau movement with his work in European Symbolism. He attended the Glasgow School of Art in 1892, where he met his wife and fellow artist, Margaret Macdonald. Eventually, the pair became part of a circle of artists who worked in the Glasgow Style in Scotland. Like many other Art Nouveau artists, Mackintosh admired Japanese design principles of simplicity and restraint. You can see Scottish, Japanese, and Art Nouveau traits in his buildings and paintings.
Years Alive: 1860 – 1939
Alphonse Mucha’s work is perhaps the most well-known and distinct of all the pieces from the Art Nouveau era. He spent the early part of his career in Paris and returned to Austria at the age of 43 to paint the Slav Epic. In 1894, Mucha experienced a career shift when actress Sarah Bernhardt commissioned a poster advertisement for her play. The poster’s immediate success led to a long-term contract between the pair. Fortunately, this business relationship opened the doors for Mucha to create more advertisements in the Art Nouveau style.
Years Alive: 1870 – 1966
Specialty: Illustration / Painting
American-born Maxfield Parrish painted with a specific color palette in a Neo-classical style. Although his work isn’t specifically classified as Art Nouveau by some art critics, it has many similar elements like figures and florals. He led an incredibly successful career, and his print, Daybreak (1922), was the most popular print of the 20th century. His work is important because it helped shape the Golden Age of Illustration. Like Mucha, Parrish was commissioned to create magazine covers, advertisements, and greeting cards, and his style is very much his own.
Louis Comfort Tiffany
Years Alive: 1848 – 1933
Specialty: Decorative Arts
Antique collectors admire Louis Comfort Tiffany for his stained glass windows and lamps, but he also designed incredible art glass and jewelry. He was the first designer of the family business, Tiffany & Co., founded by his father, Charles Lewis Tiffany. Initially, Tiffany enjoyed painting, but he discovered a passion for glassmaking in 1875. Unfortunately, his partners initially rejected his innovation in glassmaking, which lead him to open his own studio. Throughout his career, he was inspired by other artists like Alphonse Mucha and Émile Gallé.
Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec
Years Alive: 1864 – 1901
Specialty: Illustration / Painting
Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec was a painter of the Post-Impressionist period, which was a movement that directly preceded the Art Nouveau movement. His later posters and illustrations reflected the Art Nouveau movement, with flat colored figures and graphics. Unfortunately, he died at the age of 36 due to a congenital disability and lifestyle. Despite a short career, you can find nearly 1,000 of his works at the Musée Toulouse-Lautrec.