Last month I shared with my interest in the history of floral design and the influence of the Egyptian Era. Another art movement in history that inspires my design work is Art Nouveau.

Art Nouveau emerged as a reaction from the strict academic art and architecture of the Victorian Era. Japanese woodblock prints inspired a return to nature and craft and metalwork became more accessible to the middle classes. It was a time of class unrest and the working classes were striving for rights and more equality. This break through art movement lasted until the beginning of World War 1 in 1914.

Art Nouveau vases used natural motifs. The craftsmanship was less formal and used elegant, sinuous lines.

Kiwi branches, ranunculus, and callas are wonderful flowers that curve and spiral, perfect for Art Nouveau style designs.

Qualities of Art Nouveau Design

  • Less formal, spacious, elegant
  • Sinuous lines, Japanese influence
  • Whiplash curves

The 1889 World’s Fair or the Paris Exposition Universalle brought international attention to the Art Nouveau style. Hector Guimard designed entrances for the Paris metro stations.

Yellow deciduous dogwood branches cornus flaviarmea are used interpret the radiating fan of the metro station entrance.
Austrian artist, Gustav Klimt was known for his portraits of women.
His Portrait of Emily is interpreted with bound midollino and hydrangea in a glass vase. Midollino is wrapped with waxed string.

Posters and art for the masses became popular in this era. Alphonse Mucha was known for decorative posters advertising theater events. My interpretation uses a tall glass vase and carnations which were popular in the Art Nouveau Era. The carnations are wrapped into a spiral bouquet and green hypericum berries are strung into a cascading garland.

In England the reign of Edward II brought a lively interest in the arts.  William Morris founded Art Nouveau movement in UK with patterned fabric and decorative motifs.  His inspiration often came from gothic architecture with its curves and spirals.  

Bundles of spiraling bear grass and flowers with arching stems in a square glass vase with wire netting as a flower support interpret this Willliam Morris fabric.  


Tall white Art Nouveau vases were used outside the main conservatory at Longwood Gardens for the American Public Gardens Association final evening celebration.
Last spring I used 12g aluminum wire covered with florist tape and curly willow to create whiplash lines and curves that circled daffodils and hellebores. It’s fun to look to history as inspiration.