Art Nouveau: Austria, Great Britain and the United States
Level 4

Art Nouveau: Austria, Great Britain and the United States


Musée d'Orsay. Pavillon Amont, niveau 4© Musée d'Orsay
William Morris, the founder of the Arts & Crafts movement, died in 1896. Strongly opposed to pastiches of historical styles and to industrial mechanisation, he promoted a rationalism based on the study of Gothic art. His very diverse craftwork, with simple and visible structures and heavy organic decoration, was a reference for "modern" architecture and decorative arts around 1900, particularly in Vienna and Glasgow.

The first works by the Scottish architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh were very much in the style of the Arts & Crafts movement. But from 1897 on, the young architect broke with this legacy. He went on to design his first chairs characterised by the high backs and exaggerated proportions that would become emblematic of his work. His art developed towards increasingly abstract constructions but without ever losing their elegance and refinement. With his use of white lacquer for his furniture, the forms literally dissolved into space.

A similar economy of means and soberness of form could be found in the architecture and interior designs of the Viennese artists Otto Wagner, Adolf Loos, Josef Hoffmann and Koloman Moser. In 1903 Hoffmann and Moser created the Wiener Werkstätte workshops, whose skills and techniques encouraged the spread of an aesthetic that promoted rigorous, formal concision.

The trend for orthogonal forms, and the fragmentation of space, using furnishings with rectilinear structures, developed through an in-depth knowledge of Japanese architecture, was expressed even more radically in the creations of the American architect Frank Lloyd Wright.

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© Musée d'Orsay / Sophie Boegly

Works in focus

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