Rethinking contemporary man's living environment was the main aim of Art Nouveau. In order to realise this ambitious project, many painters, temporarily or definitively abandoning their main activity, made a decisive contribution. In addition, concerns about national identity encouraged them to include ancient traditions and popular arts in this formal renewal.
In Germany, the origins of the Jugendstil were closely linked with the activity of young painters. In Munich, in 1898, Richard Riemerschmid, Peter Behrens, Bruno Paul and Bernhard Pankok were some of the members of the Vereinigte Werkstätten für Kunst und Handwerk (United Workshops for Art in Handicrafts). They immediately established themselves as the masters of Germanic design, before founding, in 1907, the Deutscher Werkbund, a true alliance between art and industry. The Künstlerkolonie of Darmstadt, established by the Grand Duke of Hesse and headed by the Viennese architect Joseph Maria Olbrich, sought the collaboration of several painters. Heinrich Vogeler, who lived in Worpswede, supplied designs for furniture, objects and textiles.
In their search for genuinely modern forms and decorations, free from all imitation of historical styles, many creative artists looked towards the traditional craftsmanship of their own countries. This return to deep-rooted nationalist sources also came from a desire to affirm cultural originality. Thus, in Norway, a style known as “Neo-Viking” developed, while in Finland and Russia the workshops set up by enlightened aristocrats used their traditional skills to produce new models.