Art Nouveau

Towards the end of the nineteenth century many artists were driven by the idea that a new visual language was needed for the new century. They were keen to break with the prevailing custom of blindly following past styles, and went in search of a new, contemporary style.

This desire prompted the emergence of Dutch Art Nouveau around 1900. There were two main schools in the Netherlands. One group of artists sought to achieve a sophisticated, elegant, richly decorative form of design, based largely on stylised natural forms. They drew inspiration from the international Art Nouveau movement, particularly in France and Belgium. This ‘decorative’ school was popular above all in Delft and The Hague. The representatives of the other main school were in favour of more austere designs and geometric forms. They used decoration mainly to emphasise the structure of the object. This ‘rational’ or ‘constructive’ school was based mainly in and around Amsterdam. However, elements of both schools were often combined. What all these artists had in common was a conviction that good design was essential for a better society: to them, beauty was a ‘necessity of life’.

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