Science and The Art Nouveau – Part Three

English Arts & Crafts Oak Frame with Deeply-Carved Botanical Motif

“All beautiful works of art must either intentionally imitate, or accidentally resemble natural forms.” – John Ruskin,  The Stones of Venice,  1851

Another newly-expanding “world of science” at the turn-of-the-century was that of Neuroscience. Two scientists, Jean-Martin Charcot and Hippolyte Bernheim, made great strides in the understanding of the human brain, dreams, hypnotism, and mental disorders.  Art Nouveau designers—keen to embrace the modern—believed that using certain shapes and colors (in their interior spaces) were beneficial to mental well-being.

The Art Nouveau (including The Arts & Crafts Movement, Secessionism, and The Jugendstil) was a reaction against the West’s rapid industrialization —viewed by many as a de-humanizing force of standardization and mechanization.  If Industrialization was a “masculine” force, then the sensuous, playful and “feminine” nature of Art Nouveau could be viewed as Industrialization’s antidote.  The exhortation of Owen Jones in his seminal reference, The Grammar of Ornament (1856), for “returning to nature for fresh inspiration” was a call heeded by the designers of The Art Nouveau.

The piece shown above, an English Arts & Crafts hand-carved oak photo frame, might have provided “just a little oasis” of nature in an otherwise frenetic, industrializing world.  It might possibly do the same today.  Please click on the photo above to learn more about it.


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