Art Nouveau Rugs
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Learn More About Art Nouveau Rugs and Carpets from 1890 – 1915
Art Nouveau Rugs and Carpets or the new art is one of the first modernist design movements, which thrived between 1890 and 1915. The term Art Nouveau was first coined in 1908 following the Exposition Universelle of 1900 where the German-owned, Parisian gallery known as the ” Maison de l ‘Art Nouveau ” featured home furnishings, carpets, and tapestries in the revolutionary new style. The influential but short-lived Art Nouveau period marked a dramatic departure from the elaborate designs associated with Victorian era.
While Alphonse Mucha, Antoni Gaudi, and Gustav Klimt were building the Art Nouveau legacy in Europe, American and English designers like Gustav Stickley, Louis Comfort Tiffany, Frank Lloyd Wright, and William Morris, were forging their own design philosophy combining Art Nouveau themes with features unique to the Arts and Crafts movement.
By WWI, Art Nouveau rugs and designs were going out of favor, and the public was moving toward the streamlined functionalism of Art Deco furniture. However, the interest in the sensuous flowing lines and naturalistic elements of Art Nouveau carpets and furniture was renewed in the psychedelia of 1960’s.
Art Nouveau style embodies botanical motifs, symbolic figures, and elements borrowed from Pre-Raphaelite artists, Medieval European tapestries, Eastern folk art, and Celtic knot-work. Before the definitive beginning of the Art Nouveau period, British textile designer and creative luminary William Morris designed several extremely important carpets, such as the 1874 Tulip and Lily carpet and the 1883 Holland Park carpet, which remain influential in textile design.
Art Nouveau motifs are typically naturalistic with insects and birds, such as dragonflies peacocks, dominating popular patterns along with cattails, lilies, lotuses, thistles, irises and other botanical or floral elements.
Line-based geometric designs with symmetric and asymmetric forms and framed borders are popular in the Art Nouveau rugs and Arts and Crafts style carpets and design objects. Art Nouveau designs typically contain sinuous lines reminiscent of Alphonse Mucha’s nymphs with long, flowing hair while carpets with angular borders are associated with designs by noted typesetter and Arts and Crafts pioneer William Joseph “Dard Hunter.” Art Nouveau designers also updated and simplified classic Rococo designs featuring ornate shells and floral scrolls.
Due to technology and trends, color schemes varied greatly in Art Nouveau carpets as did rug production methods. Mossy earth-tones dominated Arts and Crafts carpets while Art Nouveau carpets often featured bright colors and gilded designs reminiscent of Oriental lacquer ware and Gustav Klimt paintings.
Many companies commissioned the leading Art Nouveau designers to create carpet patterns that could be mass-produced on American power looms. Makers of Art Nouveau rugs traditionally used thick wool yarn with a coarse texture to reduce the number of knots needed to produce a strong, resilient pile. Although mass production and new materials were welcomed by many, there was still a market for high-end wool carpets that were commissioned and hand-knotted for wealthy patrons.
William Morris was a known purist who supported the Aesthetic Movement, a backlash against industrialization. According to historians, William Morris used only natural dyes to produce his hand-knotted rug designs, which often resulted in muted tones.
In Ireland, the competing Donegal carpet house, operated by Scotsman Alexander Morton, experimented with newly developed synthetic dyes that produced unnaturally bright colors. Originally, the Donegal factory intended to produce affordable replicas of luxury carpets design by William Morris, so their materials and construction methods varied slightly. The legendary British Art Nouveau architect and designer C.F.A. Voysey produced Art Nouveau rugs and designs for Donegal and other companies for more than fifty years between the 1880’s and 1930’s.
From Stickley’s simple flat-woven druggets to the ornate hand-knotted carpets produced by William Morris, Art Nouveau carpets have been influenced by Louis Comfort Tiffany’s stained glass, Dard Hunter’s design and print work, Alphonse Mucha’s nymphs with wind-blown hair, and many other designers who worked during the turn of the century.