Rua João Mendonça, Aveiro (detail), Patrícia Sarrico, Aveiro City Museum, Public Domain Mark

Rapid industrialisation during the 19th century generated a construction boom in many European cities. Art Nouveau architecture  was a statement of national modernity and aesthetic taste, enabled by the materials - steel, iron and glass - and techniques of industrialisation. Fluid wrought-iron designs and architectural stoneware brought a distinctive and luxurious presence to building facades and bridges.

In Paris, architect and designer Hector Guimard (1867-1942) developed an abstract flowing style and his commissions included the Maison Coilliot in Lilles and Castel Béranger in Paris. Guimard's designs for Metro stations in Paris, built for the 1900 Exposition Universelle, combined linear forms with industrial construction methods and they remain world famous today.

Couronnes metro station, Paris, 1911, Photographique Agence Rol., Bibliothèque nationale de France, Public Domain Mark
Couronnes metro station, Paris, 1911, Photographique Agence Rol., Bibliothèque nationale de France, Public Domain Mark
Music Room fireplace decoration, 1901, Charles Rennie Mackintosh, Culture Grid, CC BY
Music Room fireplace decoration, 1901, Charles Rennie Mackintosh, Culture Grid, CC BY

Architect and designer Charles Rennie Mackintosh (1868-1928) defined the Glasgow School, along with the Macdonald sisters and Herbert McNair – together, they were known as ‘The Four’. Mackintosh developed his own style, contrasting strong right angles and floral-inspired decorative motifs.

In Mackintosh's design for the interior of the House of an Art Lover in Glasgow, the rose motif frequently occurs in designs such as wallpaper, stained glass windows or furniture details. As with all of Mackintosh's works, the House was intended to be experienced as a unified work of art.

Music Room in the House of an Art Lover, Glasgow, 1901, Charles Rennie Mackintosh, Culture Grid, CC BY
Music Room in the House of an Art Lover, Glasgow, 1901, Charles Rennie Mackintosh, Culture Grid, CC BY
Palais Stoclet, 1905-1911, Josef Hoffmann, KIK-IRPA, CC BY-NC-SA
Palais Stoclet, 1905-1911, Josef Hoffmann, KIK-IRPA, CC BY-NC-SA

The Palais Stoclet in Brussels was commissioned by banker and art collector Adolphe Stoclet  in 1905. It was designed by architect Josef Hoffmann and designed and built from 1905 to 1911.

The villa's decoration features the work of a number of important artists, including Koloman Moser, Gustav Klimt, Frantz Metzner and Richard Luksch. It is the ultimate expression of the Gesamtkunstwerk (‘total work of art’) ideal. Klimt's large-scale preparatory drawing, or cartoon, for the Palais Stoclet is shown below.

Cartoon for Palais Stoclet, 1905-1909, Gustav Klimt, Fondazione BEIC, CC BY-NC-ND
Cartoon for Palais Stoclet, 1905-1909, Gustav Klimt, Fondazione BEIC, CC BY-NC-ND
Residential House, Rue de Turin, Brussels, 1900, Victor Horta, Architekturmuseum der Technischen Universität Berlin in der Universitätsbibliothek, CC BY-NC-SA
Residential House, Rue de Turin, Brussels, 1900, Victor Horta, Architekturmuseum der Technischen Universität Berlin in der Universitätsbibliothek, CC BY-NC-SA

Elsewhere in Brussels, architects working in the Art Nouveau idiom included Paul Hankar, Henry van de Velde and Paul Saintenoy, but the most famous was Victor Horta (1861-1947). His work was defined by light, open-plan spaces, glass ceilings and the innovative use of ironwork.

Horta used curved ironwork, inspired by natural forms, in the interiors and on the exteriors of his buildings. His Hotel Solvay and Hotel Tassel commissions exemplify his complete approach to architecture: Horta designed every element, from door handles and furnishings to stained glass windows.

Jug, 1905-1908 , Württembergische Metallwarenfabrik (WMF), Geislingen, Jugendstilsenteret, Public Domain Mark
Jug, 1905-1908 , Württembergische Metallwarenfabrik (WMF), Geislingen, Jugendstilsenteret, Public Domain Mark

Art Nouveau architects and designers sought to create works which had a consistent visual vocabulary. It was desired that every element of the built environment, inside and out, should be designed in consideration of the whole. The organic contours of the outside of buildings were matched by equally compelling interiors.

The use of vegetal forms in metalwork, often seen in architecture, soon also appeared in silverware, lamps, and decorative items such as the elegant jug illustrated on the left, and the pewter tableware shown below.

Pewter table set, 1900, Unknown, Museum of Decorative Arts, Prague, CC0
Pewter table set, 1900, Unknown, Museum of Decorative Arts, Prague, CC0

In Barcelona, the Catalan form of Art Nouveau was Modernisme and architect Antoni Gaudí (1852-1926) created a highly individual organic style that drew on Gothic and Moorish traditions. Gaudí was appointed director of works for the Sagrada Familía church in 1883.

Gaudí worked on this extraordinary, unique and highly complex project until his death in 1926 and it remains under construction today. Learn more about the Sagrada Família with Dr. Beth Harris & Dr. Steven Zucker from smarthistory in the video below.