Symbolisms of Art Nouveau
Symbolism gave Art Nouveau a metaphysical approach to the visual world. Art revealed what could not be seen; it could provide access to what industrial life had left behind. Touching upon examples of weakness and vulnerability, temptation and degeneracy, the narrative of many Art Nouveau's design concepts contain complex ranges of symbolic matter. Mystical aspects were acquired from many sources, particularly by French Symbolist Movement. The symbolist writers promoted prose of birth, growth, decay & death. Some frequently inscribed lines of verse from symbolists on to vases & bowls. These symbolically represented the never-ending chain or cycle of birth, life, death & decay.
The female from was increasingly used as a symbol of eroticism & decadence. Art Nouveau artists portrayed woman as an ethereal, spiritual creature frequently combining her with motifs of dragonflies, butterflies and flowers in an attempt to convey sensual & melancholic undertones running deeply through the concept of nature. It was overt in its use of erotic forms of imagery and its symbolic use of myth and religion played a part in the development and formulation of the ‘New Art’ style. At a time when the position of women in society was changing, these females ' exotic, dangerous, and sexual' could only exist in some "otherly" place.
Woman’s enigmatic expression with eyes closed to conceal her inner world was symbolical of conjuring up images of death, hidden chimeras, sorcery and cults for hallucinatory drug taking. Art Nouveau woman represented a symbolist offshoot of this theme. Gone was the femme fatale and in her place was the tousled enchantress in an allegorical & symbolic role, personifying ideals like truth, justice, progress and faith.
As icons or symbols, flowers have always been very popular and with their previous long history of symbolism were given to a whole range of erotic meanings. They were used to denote the boundaries and extremes of maleficent evil to the virginal purity. Language had also reinforced floral symbolism with the so-called “deflowering” of a girl being a common theme to be found in art with the use of lilies, iris’s, sunflowers and poppies.
The eroticism of Art Nouveau was perfect as a vehicle using symbolism to convey a message to the public, realised through advertising it was sold an idea of lifestyle and sex sold the products. Muchas’ posters used the image of erotic woman to carry the message that made them the definitive symbol of the modern era. His tousled-haired beauties presented every commodity and idea from cigarettes and tobacco to beer and cars. The eroticism of the advertising varied but the symbol remained the same, woman were the premier symbol used to sell the product.
*Images to come*