For those of us who do not know much more about Art Nouveau than the Mucha prints that adorn our friends’ apartment walls, let me offer an crash course extremely rudimentary overview: There was a gallery in Paris called Maison de l’Art Nouveau which started in 1895 and has a commitment to displaying only (then-)contemporary art, which since the 1880’s had begun to employ a more loosely flowing, curvy and delicately-detailed approach to life as it was happening around the creator (as opposed to the previous movement’s comparatively drab harkening back to the classics). When the World’s Fair occurred in Paris in 1900 – the same one that announced the Eiffel Tower to the world – the Maison de l’Art Nouveau featured a superbly organized and curated display of not only paintings, but postcards, furniture, housewares, tapestries, and other objects all made in and featuring this nature-inspired curved-line new style. Because of the style beginning and its proliferation throughout France’s Belle Époque, the style is generally synonymous with France even though just about every country had its own version of “new art” toward the end of the 19th century moving into the twentieth before Modernism came along.
One great artist from France’s Art Nouveau movement that I want to share with you is the man who made the two paintings that you see above: Raphael Kirchner. Born in Austria, Kirchner moved to Paris in the midst of the Belle Époque, the fateful year of 1900. He became famous for his beautiful picture postcards, and his numerous pin-ups and nude drawings. His pictures place women in natural or fantastical settings, draw on literature and mythology, and are always full of detail in the faces/clothing, colored beautifully, and composed in interesting ways. I would love if I opened my mail box to see one of these in there. I hope you enjoy looking at some of them.