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What is art nouveau?

Art Nouveau, the 'new art' of the 1890s, a decorative style exploited predominantly in architecture, interior design, and the applied arts. Characterized by organic, sinuous patterns and ornamentations based on plant forms, the style spread across Europe and America but was most prevalent in Belgium and Britain where the arts and crafts movement of William Morris was a direct inspiration. In the graphic arts the style is epitomized by the work of Aubrey Beardsley whose drawings appeared in the first issue of The Studio, 1893, a magazine which helped disseminate the style.

In architecture a new simplicity of design produced linear constructions of glass and iron which combine curiously with the more decorative elements. Among the architects and craftsmen associated with the movement are the interior designers Victor Horta and Henry van de Velde (1863-1957), C. R. Ashbee, George Walton, C. F. A. voysey and, outstandingly, C. R. mackintosh. The metalwork of Sir Alfred Gilbert, the sculptor of Eros, and in France the glassware of Rene lalique show the ornamental aspect of Art Nouveau to advantage.

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