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GIO Looks at the Art Nouveau Movement in Art and Architecture

André Thesmar, lamp, Musée dOrsay, Paris
Art Nouveau lamp by André Thesmar, Musée dOrsay, Paris

Considered a “total” art style, embracing architecture, interior design, graphic art, and most of the decorative arts, Art Nouveau was a reaction to the academic art and revival styles of the 19th century. Art Nouveau (the “new art”) was a widely influential, relatively short-lived movement that was popular from about 1890–1910. Although it was quickly replaced by Art Deco, Art Nouveau is now seen as an important predecessor of modernism.

The advent of Art Nouveau can be traced to two distinct influences: the introduction, around 1880, of the Arts and Crafts movement, led by the English designer William Morris and Japonisme that was popular in Europe, particularly Japanese wood-block prints that contained rhythmic floral patterns and “whiplash” curves, all key elements of what would eventually become Art Nouveau.

The practitioners of Art Nouveau sought to revive good workmanship and produce genuinely modern design. But unlike the Arts and Crafts Movement, Art Nouveau did not eschew the use of machines. Artists of this movement desired to combine the fine arts and applied arts, even for utilitarian objects.

The movement issued in a wide variety of styles, and, consequently, it is known by various names, such as the Glasgow Style, and in Germany, as Jugendstil.  It is also known as as Modern in Russia, as Modernisme in Spain, as Secession in Austria-Hungary and as Stile Liberty in Italy. Although Art Nouveau acquired distinctly localized characteristics, some general features, such as organic, flowing lines resembling the stems and blossoms of plants, as well as geometric shapes, are indicative of the form.


In architecture, hyperbolas and parabolas in windows, arches, and doors are common, and decorative mouldings evolve into plant-derived forms. The Museum of Applied Arts in Budapest and the Secession Building in Vienna, are prime examples of Art Nouveau’s decorative and symmetrical architectural aesthetic.

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Glass art

The Art Nouveau movement found tremendous expression in glass art. Well known examples Examples include the lamps and favrile glass of Louis Comfort Tiffany in New York, and marquetry cameo glass by both Émile Gallé and the Daum brothers in Nancy, France. René Lalique started to produce early works in glass which were a precursor to his work in the Art Deco style.

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Fine Art and Graphics

Art Nouveau was the first major artistic stylistic movement in which mass-produced graphics played a key role. A key influence was the Paris-based Czech artist Alphonse Mucha,  whose advertisement for a play featuring Sarah Bernhardt popularized the new artistic style. Other Art Nouveau artists include Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Aubrey Beardsley, Jan Toorop and Gustav Klimt.

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Clay was the perfect medium for the Art Nouveau aesthetic. It was a period where lost techniques were rediscovered and entirely new methods were developed, especially with glazes and  firing techniques. Art Nouveau pottery produced by major factories, as opposed to individual artists, tended to emphasize surface decoration over experimental glazes. These pieces were adorned with imagery inspired by Viennese Secessionists and Jugendstil artists as well as Japanese art, including blooming plants, exotic birds like peacocks, and the popular femme-fleur, or flower woman.

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With Art Nouveau, a new type of jewelry emerged, motivated by the artist-designer with nature as the principal source of inspiration, complemented the introduction of new materials, such as opals and semi-precious stones. Enthusiasm for Japanese metalworking skills fostered new themes and approaches to ornament. French designer-jeweler-glassmaker René Lalique was most influential, glorifying nature and extending his repertoire to include new aspects of nature—such as dragonflies or grasses.

Dragonfly Lady brooch by René Lalique
Dragonfly Lady brooch by René Lalique

As quickly as Art Nouveau became popular in the late 19th century, artists, designers and architects abandoned it just as quickly in the first decade of the 20th century. Although Art Nouveau was replaced by 20th-century Modernist styles, it is now considered as an important transition between the eclectic historic revival styles of the 19th century and Modernism.

Photo Credits: Click images to view sources.

Click here to see more examples of Art Nouveau on our Pinterest board.

GIO brings you a carefully curated selection of tile and stone products developed expressly for your commercial design projects. Our looks cover a range of styles to transform commercial spaces. From retail and restaurants to hospitals and hospitality, we’ve assembled an assortment of collections in styles befitting the gamut of spaces you may be called to design. Turn to us for the latest solutions in architectural surfacing for your projects. We’re here to work with you!

Sustainable and Green Design Practices for Hospitality Projects

Jetwing Vil Uyana Resort
Perhaps the ultimate definition of eco-hotel:  a back-to-nature retreat at Jetwing Vil Uyana, an eco-friendly luxury resort in Sri Lanka.

Sustainability is no longer a trend; it has become a way of life for many, including a large percentage of America’s travelers. According to the Travel Industry Association of America, 43 million people in the US alone are eco-conscious travelers who are willing to pay 8.5 percent more to environmentally sensitive travel suppliers. A survey of U.S. travelers found 87 percent would be more likely to stay at “green” properties.

Hoteliers are recognizing the compelling need to adopt sustainable operating practices for the sake of efficiency, cost savings, and green building requirements–-and because their guests are demanding more than just being asked to reuse their towels. Embracing sustainable and green programs can provide a significant competitive advantage to businesses in the hospitality sector.

Here are some eco-friendly design practices specific to hospitality projects.

1. Hospitality interiors are often renovated because they have become outdated. Try to avoid or delay future renovations by employing timeless design.

2. Use durable, premium materials for surfaces and finishes that will last beyond the typical hospitality useful life.

3. Work closely with the mechanical engineer and electrical engineer to specify occupancy sensors and digital thermostats for guestrooms.

4. Recommend occupancy sensors for public restrooms and back-of-house areas.

5. Recommend the use of Energy Star rated refrigerators and televisions in guest rooms.

6. Specify products with low VOC ratings. Look for suppliers that have submitted their products for testing by GreenGuard™ or other reputable testing agencies.

7. Specify fabrics that are sustainable and naturally flame retardant as opposed to fabrics with chemical flame retardants that off gas into the atmosphere. Learn more about specifying eco-fabrics for hospitality design projects here.

8. Specify sustainable wood products that have achieved Chain-of-Custody certifications from the Forest Stewardship Council for the manufacture of products with certified sustainable wood, from the forest to the customer.

9. Specify sustainable window treatments and allow guests to contribute to energy efficiency through management of natural light. For example, equip rooms with motorized switches or roller shades, making it easier to light up a room with sunshine. When combined with smart controls, these treatments automatically close when guests depart for the day, opening upon return.

10. When possible and appropriate, recycle existing materials instead of including them in the construction waste.

11. Recommend the placement of recycle bins with separation compartments in each room.

Why is sustainable hospitality important? The hospitality sector has a significant impact on the environment through energy and water consumption, use of consumable products, and solid and hazardous waste generation. These impacts create costs for hospitality service providers in decreased revenues, increased operating costs, and employee costs. And quite simply, having (and promoting) a sustainable design strategy is good for business.

Green_Squared_Certified_logoYou can depend on GIO for your sustainable design projects because many of our products are Green Squared certified. Green Squared provides all tile producers, foreign and domestic, with a clear benchmark for designing sustainable products which can be accepted by North American green building programs.

Pantone’s 2015 Color of the Year is Warm and Earthy Marsala


Pantone's Color of the year, Marsala

Since 1990, the Pantone Color Institute has annually decreed a Color of the Year, forecasting a specific hue that designers, product makers, and–ultimately–consumers will be using, wearing and buying for the next twelve months. Based on the announcement for 2015, Pantone has pronounced Marsala the “it” color of the coming year.

Described by Pantone as a “naturally robust wine red,” Marsala is in stark contrast to last year’s vivid Radiant Orchid. Unlike the 2014 Color of the year, with it’s “enchanting harmony of fuchsia, purple and pink undertones,” the red-brown hue of Marsala has a dusky, earthy quality that’s warm and welcoming, yet elegant and sophisticated, too.

What inspires Pantone when choosing a color of the year? Leatrice Eiseman, executive director at Pantone, explains it’s not as simple as noting what’s hot on the runways or which makeup is selling, “It has to resonate around the world, to express in color what is taking place in the global zeitgeist.”

Marsala’s role in expressing the spirit of the times, according to Eisman, is to enrich “our mind, body and soul, exuding confidence and stability. Marsala is a subtly seductive shade, one that draws us into its embracing warmth. ”

Like the fortified wine that is its namesake, the 2015 color of the year is described by Pantone as a “tasteful hue embodies the satisfying richness of a fulfilling meal, while its grounding red-brown roots emanate a sophisticated, natural earthiness.”

Marsala is universally appealing and very adaptable with complex undertones that give it a chameleon-like quality to convey different looks: use a matte finish to emphasize the earthy nature of the color, or add sheen to create an sense of glamour and luxury. Marsala becomes rich and plush when used on textured surfaces, making it a good choice for rugs and upholstered pieces.

Whether Marsala is used on flat or textured surfaces, and regardless of the finish, the hue pairs dramatically with neutrals, including warmer taupes and grays and “because of its burnished undertones,” states Eiseman, “sultry Marsala is highly compatible with amber, umber and golden yellows, greens in both turquoise and teal, and blues in the more vibrant range.” Click here to view Pantone’s color pairings for Marsala.

Marsala was seen on the spring runways and is already showing up at the cosmetic counter. With its warmth, earthiness and richness, Marsala may well have a broad appeal that will make it a go-to in residential and commercial interiors in the months to come.