ART DECO versus ART NOUVEAU
To learn more about Art Deco, it helps to compare and contrast with other styles.
We often get asked, "What's the difference between Art Deco and Art Nouveau?" so let's compare and contrast!
Art Deco embraced the future potential of the modern age with its incredible machines and factories.
When Art Deco looked to the past it was through the lens of travel by steam ship and trains to far away locations, news being transmitted across the world, the discovery of King Tuts tomb in Egypt, adventures in Africa and South America, the opening up of Asia, the "discovery" of the past and of different cultures, all part of an adventurous modern lifestyle.
Night scenes were filled with city lights, search lights sweeping the sky. Man's technology pushing away the darkness and creating new wonders.
Plants and nature were often presented as being highly stylized and formed of geometric components. Flowers could even take on a "gear" like appearance, their leaves perfectly shaped and having geometric lines for veins.
Art Nouveau rebelled against the industrial age, machine made items and smoke belching factories.
When Art Nouveau looked to the past, it looked to a romanticized Middle Ages, to an age of chivalry, and to myths and mysticism. Its artisans wanted to embrace a more simple time when things were hand crafted and closer to nature.
Night scenes were filled with moonlight and stars, fairies and glowing water. Mystical twilight and dawn themes with their colors of rich blue-greens and ornange-golds, were also popular.
Nature was primary for the Art Nouveau style. In architecture; doors, windows, railings and canopies could appear to have grown right out of the ground. Every day objects from lamps to hand mirrors could look as though they were grown using some ancient magic.
PHILOSOPHY INFLUENCES STYLE
The METROPOLIS poster is one of the most iconic, Art Deco posters of all time. Note in this instance how there is no greenery at all. Everything is man made. It's man triumphant over nature and even the night. And if you know the story, man's attempt at triumphing over life and the soul itself! The image looks "forward" to a fantastically imagined future.
The Art Nouveau poster is by one of the most famous Art Nouveau artists of all time. Alphonse Mucha. Some say he had his own style, the "Mucha Style" which incorporated Art Nouveau. Regardless, note how even thought this too is a night scene, it's softly glowing by moonlight, and filled with life. Life's soft lines and curves even act as the frame for the piece. The image looks back to a fantastically imagined past.
Above: WROUGHT IRON DESIGNS
Note how the Art Deco gate and railing uses strong geometry,
and how the Art Nouveau gate and railing uses viny curves and the "whip" shape.
Above: The Art Deco vase uses strong linear, and geometric shapes. The design on the Art Nouveau vase has no straight lines or strong geometric shapes, and does have the viny "whip".
Things are about to get tricky!
So far we have been comparing extremely Art Deco things, with things that are very Art Nouveau.
Occaaaasionally one might find design elements that are more commonly found in Art Deco, on a piece that is Art Nouveau, and vice versa.
To determine if a piece is Art Deco or Art Nouveau, the over all effect or "balance" of the design elements (Is it Mostly Art Deco? Is it Mostly Art Nouveau?) should be considered. Sometimes it can boil down to the date the piece was made and the "philosophy" or feel of the piece, and the materials used.
All of this is especially true when we start looking at things that have plants and animals on them. Because yes, even Art Deco pieces could have lots of plants and flowers, BUT, for the most part, they were stylized differently than those found on Art Nouveau pieces.