Art Nouveau and Art Deco are separate artistic movements. They have striking visual differences. However, Art Deco followed close on the heels of Art Nouveau, which is why they are sometimes considered together.
This is a very basic introduction to Art Nouveau vs Art Deco. Read more in depth on the topic at the minusOne jewelry blog. But for now, here’s a beginner’s guide.
When was Art Nouveau Jewelry popular?
Art Nouveau style jewelry was popular from 1890 until just before the start of World War I. Its decline in popularity began around 1910.
Art Nouveau is a fin de siècle (end of the century) style. The transition from one century to the next was considered a big deal, and people during the 1890s – artists included – felt nostalgia for a bygone age.
When was Art Deco Jewelry popular?
Art Deco began trending around the same time Art Nouveau lost traction and continued to fascinate artists and consumers alike throughout the 1920s and 1930s.
Art Deco artists had watched the new century come off without a hitch. So, for them, optimism and forward-thinking reigned.
Their idealized, hyper-optimistic vision might have had its roots in the excitement of Art Nouveau’s magical newness.
But the art of Art Deco was not dreamy. It represented a very concrete, forward-looking machine age that included towering skyscrapers, and the speed of airplanes, transatlantic ships, and race cars.
Lillian Baker explains in conclusion: Nouveau was “new”, but lingered on the pessimism that came with the End-of-the-Century malaise – an affliction called “decadence”.
Deco was “young,” optimistic, spirited, with a look to the ‘new century of progress’.
The Line in Art Nouveau Jewelry
Art Nouveau is asymmetrical, sinuous, and organic. Its motifs are dynamic and emotive. For example, Art Nouveau artists adored the female form, with a focus on the curved body and flowing hair. Art Nouveau is known for its flowing ‘whiplash’ lines.
What is a Whiplash Line in Art Nouveau?
Imagine the lash of a whip as it curves up and out to strike. It has a beginning and an end like any line, but it’s fluid and curved, arced and asymmetric.
The flowing tresses of a woman’s hair are therefore an iconic Art Nouveau image.
The Line in Art Deco Jewelry
And Art Deco’s curves weren’t whimsical or whiplashed; they were circles: closed and perfectly round.
Avant-garde in Art Nouveau and Art Deco
“Here was personal adornment presented with as quakeful a jolt to mores and manners as the shuddering of change from cave-like existence to planetary landing” (Baker, again).
I’m not sure I’d agree that the transition from the repressive Victorian era to the Modern Style represented by Art Nouveau and then Art Deco was really anything like the transition from cave dwelling to moon landing, but hey. I’m a romance writer, so I can tolerate a touch of purple prose.
The point is that both movements – Art Nouveau and Art Deco – went beyond boundaries drawn by the previous century, and this “progress” can be seen in the jewelry of each period when compared to those that came immediately before it: Georgian and Victorian.
These styles that focused heavily on elaborate gemstone arrangements, precious jewelry and precious metals designed to showcase the riches of the wearer, rather than the artistry of the jeweler.
The marriage (in fact, the threesome) of ancient crafts, new technologies, and new materials allowed Art Nouveau and Art Deco jewelry to emerge as something completely new.
Design and Motifs in Art Nouveau Jewelry
Some people saw the end of the century as the end of the world. Art Nouveau artists picked up on this spirit, and also shows an interest in death and the occult that doesn’t come up in Art Deco design.
Below: Art Nouveau Bat ring, JF Chatelier, NY. Photo by Adam Wide; Grasset & Vever, “Apparitions” pin. © RMN-Jean Schormans
Perhaps for the same reason, Art Nouveau jewelry often feels dreamlike with fairytale motifs like mermaids and winged women.
Below images include (all copyright Warman’s 4th edition): Art Nouveau gold, plique-a-jour enamel and freshwater pearl brooch, photo courtesy Doyle New York; Art Nouveau enameled 14K gold pin with flower blossom, freshwater pearl accents; Art Nouveau style enamled 14K gold and seed pearl brooch, bust of a woman with butterfly wings headdress, unsigned.
Lalique’s famed DRAGONFLY WOMAN corsage ornament (1897-98), Calouste Gulbenkian Museum, Lisbon. Image copyright minusOne jewelry.
Lalique winged rooster haircomb, Calouste Gulbenkian Museum, Lisbon. (Images copyright minusOne jewelry.)
Design and Motifs in Art Deco Jewelry
Art Deco jewelry looks very different from the Art Nouveau jewelry made in the decades leading up to the fin de siècle.
Again, a primary difference between Art Nouveau and Art Deco is their treatment of The Line. Art Deco jewelers took their cues from Cubist painters like Picasso and Juan Gris.
Art Deco lines were straight, finite, and played with angles and interlocking shapes like puzzles.
In addition to the differences in their use of the line, figural jewelry from the Art Deco era is geometric and abstract.
Although representations of lithe women figured into Art Deco jewelry, it’s relatively rare to see representations of the female form, or her hair, when compared to the ubiquitousness of these motifs in Art Nouveau.
Some of the above Art Deco style designs are contemporary and for sale at minusOne jewelry. Can you tell which are from the 1920s and 1930s and which are not?
In conclusion, Art Deco followed close on the heels of Art Nouveau, which is why they are sometimes considered together.
They may share an origin story, but the two styles of art are vastly different.
Coming Soon! More about Art Nouveau vs Art Deco…Celebrated jewelers of the Art Nouveau and Art Deco eras.
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