Art Nouveau means “new art” in French and it was a new way of doing things compared to the traditional art of the early 1800s. People were tired of the old art forms and especially the stiffness and formality. They wanted more personal expression. And it wasn’t just painters who were influenced by Art Nouveau. It was an inspiration for how people designed houses, furniture, silverware, stained glass windows, wallpaper, posters, jewelry, clothing and pretty much everything. There were rich people who liked this new way of living so much that they had entire houses designed from scratch, complete down to what was in the cupboards.
Art Nouveau was a very flowing and natural way of doing art. Take for instance this picture by Alphonse Mucha:
The lady has flowing dress and flowing hair and she is sitting very casually. There were also a lot of nature themes during the Art Nouveau period, like the vines and trees. It is not a simple way of doing things, though. Art Nouveau used elaborate borders and complex techniques for embellishment.
One of the most famous people who did Art Nouveau was Louis Comfort Tiffany. He designed a wide range of things, but he is remembered by many for his lamps:
He used bits of colored glass to make the lampshades into flowers and dragonflies and sunsets. He is also known for his vases and jewelry. Many of his works are now worth quite a lot of money.
Although the Art Nouveau movement did not last very long, many artists and designers are still influenced by it. There are also a lot of collectors who like to buy Art Nouveau objects to display in their homes.