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Art Nouveau and the Classical Tradition
Bloomsbury Academic

Art Nouveau and the Classical Tradition

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Art Nouveau and the Classical Tradition
Author(s): Richard Warren

Art Nouveau was a style for a new age, but it was also one that continued to look back to the past. This new study shows how in expressing many of their most essential concerns – sexuality, death and the nature of art – its artists drew heavily upon classical literature and the iconography of classical art. It challenges the conventional view that Art Nouveau's adherents turned their backs on Classicism in their quest for new forms. Across Europe and North America, artists continued to turn back to the ancient world, and in particular to Greece, for the vitality with which they sought to infuse their creations.

The works of many well-known artists are considered through this prism, including those of Gustav Klimt, Aubrey Beardsley and Louis Comfort Tiffany. But, breaking new ground in its comparative approach, this study also considers some of the movement's less well-known painters, sculptors, jewellers and architects, including in central and eastern Europe, and their use of classical iconography to express new ideas of nationhood. Across the world, while Art Nouveau was a plural style drawing on multiple influences, the Classics remained a key artistic vocabulary for its artists, whether blended with Orientalist and other iconographies, or preserving the purity of classical form.


“[Warren] has made a strong case for seeing the classical influences that underlay much of Art Nouveau's cultural production and worked to overturn the facile assumption that Art Nouveau and classical antiquity had little to do with each other … [A] fascinating book.” —Classical Journal

“This book vividly brings to light Art Nouveau artists' turning to, and transformation of, classical sources in order to express life's vitality in modern ways while coping with the anxious anticipation of a new era.” —Marice Rose, Associate Professor of Art History, Fairfield University, USA

“Offers a provocative re-assessment of Art Nouveau's engagement with classical antiquity. Warren's ground-breaking study examines afresh a deeply misunderstood chapter in the reception of the classics in the visual arts.” —Anastasia Bakogianni, Lecturer in Classical Studies, Massey University, New Zealand

ISBN:  9781350117310