Many of us wonder “How do Art Deco and Art Nouveau differ?” Often when people, even you and me, look at vintage art, architecture, jewelry or glassware they’re not sure how to tell them apart. Both the Art Nouveau and Art Deco movements emerged as reactions to major world events: the Industrial Revolution and World War I, respectively. While both embraced modernist elements, they’re easy to distinguish if you know what to look for.
Art Nouveau (it means “new art,” but you probably figured that out) reigned from roughly 1880 until just before World War I. Art Nouveau embraced Europe’s new industrial esthetic rather than challenging it.
Features include naturalistic but stylized forms, often combined with more geometric shapes. In particular arcs, parabolas, and semicircles (think of the paintings of Gustav Klimt, or the arches of the Eiffel Tower). Natural forms have been brought in that had often been overlooked. These include forms like insects, weeds, even mythical faeries, as evidenced by Lalique jewelry or Tiffany lamps.
Art Deco on the other hand, emerged after World War I. In fact, the deprivations of the Great War years gave way to a whole new opulence and extravagance that defined the Jazz Age and the Art Deco aesthetic.
The movement, prevalent from the 1920s until roughly the start of World War II, took its name from the 1925 Exposition Internationales des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes (say that ten times, fast), held in France and is characterized by streamlined and geometric shapes. It also utilized modern materials like chrome, stainless steel, and inlaid wood.
If Art Deco dabbled with natural materials, they tended to be graphic or textural, like zebra skin or jagged fern leaves. As a result, Deco featured bold shapes like sunbursts and zigzags and broad curves. In fact, if you check out the spire of the Chrysler Building, the hotels of Miami’s South Beach, or the “coffin nose” oif a 1935 Cord Model 810, you’ll be staring at the very definition of Deco.
The article above was reprinted from the mental_floss book “What’s the Difference?” with permission.
How do Art Deco and Art Nouveau differ: A discussion
Art Nouveau. In this example of a wallpaper pattern by English artist Walter Crane, you see several elements considered central to Art Nouveau, including an emphasis on curving natural forms, echoes of things like leaves and birds and flowing lines that connect everything.
Art Nouveau emphasizes long lines and whiplash curves, forms in which lines bend and veer back on themselves. As you might guess by this description, line is more important than color, which was sometimes be muted. In Art Nouveau, all elements seem to connect organically together. There’s an emphasis on natural materials like wood and natural colors like muted greens, browns and deep reds
Of course, you don’t have to go outdoors if you’re looking for Deco. Furniture from the period – like the black leather and chrome chaise lounge by Le Corbusier or the Barcelona chair by Bauhaus giant Ludwig Mies van der Rohe – is still coveted by design aficionados and can be found in finer hotel lobbies everywhere.
Art Deco. In this image of decoration at the entrance to the Chrysler Building, a famous Art Deco skyscraper in New York, you can see the emphasis on industrial materials and geometry. Everything is angles, and several areas include repeated chevrons and zigzags. Art Deco celebrates technology (think radios, airplanes and automobiles) and progress in developments like electricity. It’s the style used on skyscrapers like the Empire State Building and Rockefeller Center in New York City.