The tree of happiness flowers and fruits most abundantly for the creative man
“I know a bank where the wild thyme blows,
Where oxlips and the nodding violet grows;
Quite over-canopied with lush woodbine,
With sweet musk-roses, and with eglantine.”
A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Shakespeare
Art Nouveau (New Art) is a celebration of the floral and plant kingdom. It surrenders itself joyfully, in wild abandon, to the enthralling embrace of the twisting and twirling tendril and the whiplash winding of the root. It is truly a flower-frilled, pretty-petalled, floriferous festival.
As the playwright William Shakespeare would have it – we must embrace the green and golden midsummer garden with all its wondrous trees and flowers. The Art Nouveau artist (like the mischievous Puck) would have his way with us, and should he squeeze his magic nectar on our eyelids, we shall fall into an enchantment. That you have picked up this book is perhaps evidence that the Art Nouveau has already spun its spell on you; and should you feast your eyes upon this book’s content – you may forever be in love.
Here’s a book whose contents will appeal to all those who seek life’s splendour, abundance and gorgeousness. It is for those who cherish and exult in the floral world, and for those who seek a natural expression. This generous collection of motifs will certainly delight the eye and excite you to creativity.
For Art Nouveau artists and designers, the natural world became the source for much of their inspiration. They believed that from this rich and bountiful Garden of Eden, a new and energetic style would emerge, devoid of pretentious classicisms and stifling older models. Designers turned their attention to the well known and loved plants and flowers that graced their gardens, parks and countryside for their imagery. Some of these plants and flowers became iconographic of this style. Among these were the red field poppy, the druid-magic mistletoe, the damask rose, the virgin’s lily and the folksy tulip. These and many other plants have found their way onto the pages of this book.
Not only did the plants themselves become a source of inspiration, but so too their forms, shapes, textures and lines. Art Nouveau is richly populated with bold organic shapes, flowing forms, sweeping and intertwining lines and leafy textures. I have endeavoured to assemble as many motifs that illustrate these stylistic elements. Using these design elements in your own creations will imbue them with the essence of the Art Nouveau.
Many of the greatest and most well-known artists and designers between the years 1890 to 1914 utilised this style to convey their romantic view of the world and to ornament their creations. Among them, the illustrator Aubrey Beardsley, the graphic artist Alphonse Mucha, the decorator Charles Mackintosh, the designer Louis Tiffany and the architect Antoni Gaudi. From their hands some of the finest 19th century images emerged. I have sourced many of the motifs in this book from these and other luminaries.
The Art Nouveau style emerged towards the end of the 19th Century as a natural extension of the Arts and Crafts Movement. It was also a reaction against the crassness of the Industrial Revolution and its heavy and generalising manufacturing hand. Many artists keenly sought to beautify all their creative endeavours, from the most humble everyday utensil, to the most sublime building. This intense attention to content and detail, resulted in what aesthetes call the ‘total work of art’.
This sensibility is no clearer illustrated than in the architecture of the time, where every aspect of a building, its exterior facade, windows, doors; as well as its interior staircases, light fittings and ceilings – enjoyed the same acute artistic attention.
I have sourced the motifs in this book from the wide applications of the Art Nouveau Style. Among these disciplines are ceramics, glass, wrought-iron, jewellery, fabrics, furniture and architecture. Whatever your craft or art, be it ceramic decoration, leather work, stained glass, fabric design, embroidery or tattoo art – this publication will find broad contemporary application.
400 Art Nouveau Motifs’ presents the contemporary artist, craftsperson, teacher and student with an incredible wealth of creative material. There can surely not be many other styles of comparative richness. It is a veritable cornucopia of creativity, spilling out its generous content for all to enjoy and appreciate. This book is an assembly of the very best of this style’s motifs, drawn in exquisite detail and clarity in black and white, and in such a fashion as to allow for their copying and easy rendition.
It is my sincere wish, that as you imbibe from the sweet and plentiful nectar that is the Art Nouveau chalice – that you will be inspired to new creative heights and to new artistic ardour.
Graham Leslie McCallum