When we think of Art Nouveau, we often think of whiplash curves, stylized floral motifs and a refinement of craftsmanship—lightness, elegance, delicacy. But the Art Nouveau also had a more rustic—more brutish—offshoot. Like the Belgian Art Nouveau pitcher, shown above, this heavier aesthetic is seen most often in architecture (and especially its tile or ceramic elements). Think of Gaudi, in Barcelona, with his seemingly “melting” ceramic-tiled chimneys. Or the Oceanographic Museum (aquarium) in Monte Carlo with its impasto ceramic treatments resembling seaweed and coral.
Pictured above, an Art Nouveau pitcher by Belgian ceramicist Roger Guerin. Heavy “schmears” of wet clay are applied—by hand or by blade—to the previously-crafted pitcher. They are sculpted in a way that is at once organic and (borderline) grotesque. Guerin’s design exhibits bold form, strong contrast, obvious handwork and the use of natural (biological) elements—all hallmarks of the Art Nouveau aesthetic.
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