Last week we talked about Antonio Gaudi, Victor Horta and others. We discussed the designs they used and implemented based on the twines, florals and curves of nature. The double bench
in the blog, and seen here below, was typical of the “Art Nouveau” style and is still being produced today. I mentioned that I sat in the bench in the lobby of the Barcelona Marriott. The seat is ample and comfortable. The back and arms have that parabolic curve that gives the Art Nouveau style its simplicity. There is a simplicity about the style. In this bench, the legs are, however, typically a colonial style, a popular shape, even today, perhaps mimicking the figure of a woman, that is, with some imagination. There is some kind of comfort in things that have soft curves and furniture is not exempt. It was not unusual to combine different styles in one piece of furniture in the 19th century.
The Art Nouveau style was born out of a love for beauty. The curves of the plant were seen in chair legs and chair backs. The flowing line, called the Belgian curve, which is the flat segment of an ellipse, was used for wall openings, furniture supports and furniture forms. After 1900 and the Paris Exposition, the parabolic curve took the place of the ellipse. The curve was used in woodwork, mirror frames, and furniture. The curve is specific to the style, so if you like parabolic curves, you will like this furniture. Although the lines are clean, even with some ornamentation, it has a definite line direction to the style. Unlike Victoriana that had many different lines and ornamentation on one piece of furniture.
I always have fun making comparisons to Victoriana because the style is so pathetically massive and invasive and all made with the machine. Some of my earlier blogs addressed Victoriana. If you were rich, your “stuff” was made by machine, and the more ornamentation it had on one piece, then the richer you appeared. Victoriana tried to copy the Louis XV style, a French classic. But they missed, and instead produced this strange looking furniture.
This is how it goes through the history of furniture, the history of architecture, the history of all things. The pendulum swings back and forth. We try new, then we go back to the old, and end up with the classics.
So, if you compare the Victoriana chair above to the Art Nouveau style, which would you prefer?