The art nouveau movement was another all-encompassing design precept which influenced painting, ,sculpture, jewellery, architecture, interior design, clothing and manufacturing and which mushroomed in the latter part of the 19th century. It was, essentially, an expression of artistic freedom from convention following decades during which more formal schools of thought had set the boundaries – broad constraints under the aegis of academic art which drew on classical and historical sources for inspiration and trumpeted the human condition in all its forms, facets and foibles.
Art Nouveau – although more than willing to take on board new and innovative creative processes – followed naturalistic muses; non-geometric free-flowing shapes and the form and movement of flora and fauna. In Italian it is known as both “stile liberty” and “stile floreal” which perhaps better encapsulate it’s unregimented and organic persuasion.
Art Nouveau glass would often feature opalescent finishes and gradual, sometimes iridescent, shifting gradations in tone to evoke the subtleties of natural texture and colouration – there were few hard edges, regularly facetted, cut or ground surfaces or highly coloured elements involved.
As it was a relatively short-lived movement – barely some thirty years from 1880 onwards – there are few, if any, manufacturers whose output solely consisted of Art Nouveau material. Lalique, Loetz, Tiffany, Daum and Richardson all explored the movement’s opportunities for expression, but you will note that their names all feature in other categories, illustrating their willingness to follow the latest fashions and try to keep their work absolutely “a la mode” and at the forefront of popular culture – never feeling obliged to stay loyal to one particular movement or another.
Given the proximity of the two timelines, it is no surprise that Art Nouveau and Art Deco production shared common techniques; Loetz’s Cretan Rusticana material and uranium glass ranges were echoed by Davidson’s opalescent jade work a decade or so later, and the iridescent vases, bowls and tumblers of Poschinger and Kralik’s German and Bohemian manufactories used techniques which would still be current when the Art Deco movement came to hold sway. Kralik was probably one of the foremost artists to work with what were unambiguously floral forms, using applied decorations to augment basically simple vessels and on which to model moulded and drawn vases, while the likes of Rindskopf and Palme-Koenig tended to suggest organic growth by festooning again fairly uncomplicated vases and bowls with vinous tendrils, serpentine coils and interwoven lattices made up of stems and stalks – a more abstract approach, but still within Art Nouveau’s naturalistic spirit.
Kralik’s other main signature pieces were those made from opalescent glass which was intended to replicate mother of pearl, an obvious allusion to a natural material and perhaps – given it’s recurring use in the creation of many vases and vessels with smoothly curved profiles, rippled surfaces and undulating lips and rims – such pieces constitute the epitome of Art Nouveau glassware.