Art Deco and Art Nouveau: similarities and differences.


The two decorative arts styles Art Deco and Art Nouveau share many similarities, but there are also some key differences. Understanding these differences can help you determine the best type of piece to add to your collection.

Art Nouveau drew its inspiration from nature, featuring intricate designs that were asymmetrical and curved. These were often inspired by flowers, leaves, vines, and other delicate natural forms.

What is Art Deco?

Art Deco is a style of art, architecture, and product design that began in France during the 1910s and flourished in the United States and Europe during the 1920s and 1930s. Its main visual characteristics derive from repetitive use of linear and geometric shapes including triangular, zigzagged, trapezoidal, and chevron-patterned forms.

The Art Deco movement was a merger of creative dexterity with celebration of technological progress and industrialization. It incorporated elements of various world cultures, and reflected the excitement and adventure that the modern age had to offer.

Unlike Art Nouveau, which focused on ornamentation, the Art Deco style was more concerned with the beauty of the object itself. It aimed to make every object, even machine-made objects, more appealing and beautiful.

What is Art Nouveau?

Art Nouveau is an international art movement that flourished throughout Europe in the late 19th century. Its name comes from the French word "nouveau" meaning "new."

The movement embraced a new industrial aesthetic that was inspired by nature and reimagined the traditional Fine Arts of painting and sculpture. It was a reaction to the tawdry production values of the Victorian age and sought to return the decorative arts to their origins in artisanship.

A major artistic theme of Art Nouveau is long, sweeping lines that mimic nature. These motifs often appear in relief carvings, ironwork, tilework and paintings.

These curved lines can be seen on many of the buildings designed by Art Nouveau architects, like Victor Horta and Antoni Gaudi. The entrances to the Paris Metro are a famous example of Art Nouveau innovation, with intricate glass and iron work that resemble seed pods and bean shoots.

What are the similarities between Art Deco and Art Nouveau?

The two major design movements of the 20th century -- Art Deco and Art Nouveau -- have more similarities than one might think. They were both reactions to major world events.

They both embraced modernist elements. However, they differed in their aesthetics.

While Art Deco focuses on geometric shapes and symmetry, Art Nouveau drew inspiration from organic forms and natural elements. It also favored curved lines over straight parallel ones.

It emphasized imagined and real animal and insect representation, such as bats, dragonflies, and birds.

Night scenes were a common feature of Art Nouveau, with city lights and search light beams lighting the sky. Similarly, floral designs appeared often.

This artistic style rebelled against industrialized objects and smoke-belching factories. It wanted to bring things closer to nature and a more romanticized past.

What are the differences between Art Deco and Art Nouveau?

While these two design movements share more similarities than you might think, they also have distinct differences. Art Deco was a reactionary modernist movement that emerged in the aftermath of World War I, while Art Nouveau is a more organic style embracing nature.

Art Deco was influenced by technology, industrial materials and mechanization. Its designs often feature geometric shapes and sleek forms.

Many of these motifs are quite similar to those of Art Nouveau, but they have a much more polished appearance and are not reminiscent of the fluid curves and flowing florals that were common during the early years of Art Nouveau.

Another big difference between the two styles is that Art Nouveau emphasized nature, often displaying flowers, plants and natural elements in highly stylized ways. For example, flowers can be made to look like gears with perfectly shaped leaves and geometric veins.