Modernism (Art Nouveau)

 What is Modernism or Art Nouveau?

Modernist Art, Modernism or Art Nouveau was an artistic movement of the late 19th century. Although it had different names depending on the country, the meaning was the same, the renewal of art, since the artists wanted to create a new, young, free and modern art, breaking with the traditions of Academicism and Impressionism.

Modernismo, Parque Güell en Barcelona
Modernismo, Parque Güell en Barcelona

Modernism or Art Nouveau

Modernism was Cosmopolitan and Multiform, so was the new style that was imposed in the mid-1890s in all kinds of artistic creations, from posters to fashion.

Art Nouveau reached its peak in 1900, with the Universal Exhibition in Paris, but disappeared during World War I. It resurfaced in the 1960s stimulated by a rampant speculation for the pieces that had survived destruction.

In fact, this current represented the first attempt to bring modernism to an international level. In that sense, this art of the turn of the century translated the aspirations and contradictions of a time in crisis.

The origins of Art Nouveau are multiple and diffuse. It can be reconstructed from the history of styles, both from Viollet-le-duc’s neo-Gothic and from rococo or japonism.

Its slogan “art for all” comes from the social conceptions represented in France by Leon Laborde and in Great Britain by the inspirers of “arts and crafts”, Ruskin and Morris. The modern style was also adopted by Anglo-Saxon countries.

In Germany, Jugendstil became expressionist. In Austria, Sezessionstil recalled that Vienna had been the capital of anti-academic rebellion. On the other hand, in Spain the maximum representative of modernism was the architect Antonio Gaudí.

Sezessionstil – Viena

Doménech i Montaner (Palau de la Música Catalana) and Puig i Cadafalch also deserve special mention. Of neo-Gothic influence, modernism developed mainly in Barcelona and was favored by the aesthetic positions of a thriving Catalan bourgeoisie that considered modernism a symbol of progress and a movement that looked towards Europe.

Modernist Painting

Modernist painting emerged in opposition to Academicism and Impressionism. Everyday themes were abandoned and replaced by symbolic and conceptual themes, among which the woman stands out, with a certainly erotic treatment. At a technical level, emphasis is placed on the purity of the lines and the expressiveness of the drawing. Curved lines and asymmetry are used.

One of the most outstanding modernist painters was Gustav Klimt. Founder and promoter of the Viennese secession, Gustav Klimt was the pictorial reference of the movement. However, among his contemporaries, from Gauguin to Munch, very few remained insensitive to the seductions of the line. For Art Nouveau, often impregnated with symbolism, the woman was the preferred object. In Klimt, sensuality and marked eroticism were sumptuously embodied in matter and form.

Modernist Architecture

Casa Battlló – Gaudí

Modernist Architecture spread throughout Europe and much of America. It meant the rejection of previous architectural models, such as the linear perspective of the Renaissance or the totalitarian layouts of the Baroque. The academic compositions of architecture seemed too formal to them, since those artificial and static strokes could not fit in the way of life of an open, dynamic and constantly changing world, giving rise to the modern architecture movement that meant starting from scratch.

The Industrial Revolution contributed greatly to the triumph of modernist architecture. The new social situation of the time had its repercussions at an architectural level, on the one hand, Churches and Palaces lost importance, they ceased to be the main themes in the architectural field, being replaced by Monuments, museums, houses, theaters, exhibition palaces and office buildings.

The new constructions represented the economic values of the new capitalist society and the productive forces (workers) manifested themselves clearly in the buildings destined for factories, offices and houses. Some countries understood the arrival of modernism as a form of social progress.

Thanks to scientific research there were great innovations such as the invention of descriptive geometry and the introduction of the decimal metric system.

If we talk about modern architecture, without a doubt, we must highlight the Catalan Antoni Gaudí, who created wonderful architectural works in Barcelona such as Casa Batlló, Casa Vicens and Park Güell among many others …

Materials used in Modernist Architecture 

During the Industrial Revolution there was great scientific progress in creating constructions. The use of materials was studied and optimized to make them more profitable. The main materials that were used in modernist architecture were:

  • Stone 
  • Bricks 
  • Wood 
  • Cast iron 
  • Glass 
  • Cement