use of nature in Art Nouveau
decoration applies to every skill of
Art Nouveau ranging from buildings to furniture and various objects including vases
or jewels. Concerning buildings, the decoration often uses sculpture,
ceramic tiles or sgraffitos. Sculptures are merely in wood,
stone, metal or
ceramic. Nature has also influenced the famous abstract
through stylization (cf the stairway hall in House Tassel by Horta in
1894, one of the first Art Nouveau building or the later use of curves by Guimard). Stylization has served
the aesthetic aim of Art Nouveau. It is seldom to find realistic
Both animals and plants patterns were used in the decoration
Nouveau buildings. Sea world is not often represented but you may
sometime find shells, lobsters, fish or algae, overall on buildings on the sea
side but also in Nancy Art Nouveau (See Gallé
vases for instance).
Animal gallery :
Here is a wonderful dragonfly (Libellule in french) vase
by Emile Gallé, the leading Art Nouveau artist of the "Ecole de Nancy" in France.
Exotic animals are rather seldom : I
have seen elephants in Russia (a fantastic house in Samara), monkeys in Amsterdam, ...
and lezards in Paris
(2 door handles by Lavirotte)
or in Barcelona
If dragons are not so common (used as a door in the Finca
Güell by Gaudi :
if you want to enter just shake its hand!), one of the mythic Art
Nouveau animal : the dragonfly was not very used in architecture : but
noone can forget the jewels
by Lalique where a woman and
a dragonfly merge in a typical Art Nouveau
Bernasconi's villa in Cernobbio is remarkable in all ways that you may
visit "out of the beaten tracks". Bernasconi was at the head of a silk
factory : that is why butterflies were used for its
decoration. Silk is made with boiled
cocoons. Butterflies are
the next natural step after the cocoon step. I must admit that
butterflies are much more decorative than cocoons!
Peacock is the most spread Art Nouveau pattern. The shop, rue Raugraff
(partly destroyed today but the remaining parts restored) only
show the feathers.
Owls were particularly used in northern Europe Art Nouveau (called
National Romanticism) because of the large place of owls in northern
mythologies and legends. Unfortunately, I do not have any Art Nouveau
pictures of this area. Contributions are welcome!
This animal is very rare in Art Nouveau decoration. And here it is
treated with a realistic manner.
Plant gallery :
Favorite patterns are the sunflower, pine
cones, horse-chestnut leaves, roses (on trees or only the
flower like the stylized rose by CR Mackintosh),
Umbellatus (ombellifères in French) (same family as the
Cigüe or Aneth),
Honesty ("Monnaie du Pape" in French), Waterlilies, ...
Flowers are very largely stylized and then hard to recognize
(as far as my knowledge is in botanics). The most recognizable flowers are :
Sunflowers, Iris, Arums, Thistles. For villas, the decoration is often
used to illustrate its name.