Friday, March 19, 2010
Art Nouveau, the New Art, was paradoxically backward-looking, flirting with the Ancient of Days, the Sphinx, the Chimera, Venus under the Tannenberg, Persian peacocks, melusines, and Rhine maidens, along with hairy-legged Pan and draped and dangerous oriental priestesses. Some of its newness derived from the deep dream of the lost past which informed both Burne-Jones's palely loitering knights and porcelain-fine maidens, and Morris's sense of saga-scenes and bright embroidered hangings. But it was radically new also, in its use of spinning, coiling, insinuating lines derived from natural forms, its rendering in new metal of tree-shapes newly observed, its abandonment of the solid worth of gold and diamonds for the aesthetic delights of nonprecious metals and semi-precious stones, mother-of-pearl, grained wood, amethyst, coral, moonstone. It was an art at once of frozen stillness, and images of rapid movement. It was an art of shadows and glitter that understood the new force that transfigured both the exhibition and the century to come. Electricity.
--A gorgeous description of Art Nouveau and its influences, from page 273 of the novel The Children's Book by A.S. Byatt, a book I'm reading very slowly, but enjoying.