- Art Nouveau
- Art nouveau began as a decorative art movement in the 1880s, in reaction against the historical emphasis of mid-19th-century art. The innovative style appeared in architecture as well as the decorative arts, including furniture, jewelry, and book design and illustration. Characterized by a lavish ornamental and asymmetrical style, art nouveau featured a distinctive whiplike linearity, evocative of intertwining plant tendrils.In Brussels, the groundwork for the rise of art nouveau consisted of a conjunction of factors that included the development of new building materials, notably cast iron, which permitted architects to create structures in any shape desired, the vogue for Oriental imagery, and the growth of urban development, which saw suburbanization mushroom in eastern districts from 1860 to 1910. Architects and designers searched for a new style that would appeal to newly wealthy middle classes while the birth of the labor movement and its call for radical reforms engendered an atmosphere of rebellious dissent. Architectural competitions and several highly active art forums, notably Les XX and La Libre Esthétique, stimulated creative inventiveness.In 1893, Victor Horta designed a house for Émile Tassel, an engineer and professor. Featuring flowing shapes in ironwork, carved stone, and stained-glass windows, the Hôtel Tassel garnered much attention, both positive and negative. It launched art nouveau in Brussels, which would dominate trend-setting design until the end of the first decade of the 20th century. Defined in 1894 as un art nouveau ("a new art") by Henri van de Velde, the style also claimed architects Paul Hankar, Paul Cauchie, and Paul Hamesse, among others. Approximately 1,500 buildings were constructed in art nouveau style between 1893 and 1910. Many were later demolished or have decayed beyond repair. Still, a total of some 1,000 buildings remain scattered throughout the metropolitan area, primarily east and south of the city center.
Historical Dictionary of Brussels. Paul F. State.