What is the difference between Art Deco and Art Nouveau?
Way back in the early years when my decorating gene was still quite dormant (my fashion gene was too busy running things), if you asked me the difference between Art Nouveau and Art Deco I probably would have told you I didn’t know anyone named Art. Then I got my first apartment…and discovered the joy of decorating my own place.
Fast forward a few years and my interest in design turned into a passion. However, identifying these two styles was still confusing to me. It wasn’t until I began studying interior design that I actually learned what each one was all about. For anyone that is as confused as I was regarding the difference between Art Deco and Art Nouveau, I hope to make it a little clearer for you today.
Art Deco and Art Nouveau
Even though both these styles begin with ‘art’, they are two very different design movements, each with its own distinct style. It’s really quite easy to distinguish one from the other, if you know what to look for. Here’s a breakdown of each style:
- Art Deco emerged after World War I, a time when the world was ready for luxury and extravagance. It was prevalent during the 1920’s and 1930’s, until around the beginning of World War II.
- Though both styles utilize geometric shapes, in Art Deco they are more linear, streamlined, repetitive, and symmetrical.
- Sunburst and zigzags are two common shapes featured in Art Deco designs.
- When including natural forms, they tend to be more graphic and textural like the rough edges of a plant’s leaves or a zebra’s hide.
- Art Deco is also recognized for its use of modern materials like chrome, wood inlays and stainless steel.
- Art Nouveau actually came before Art Deco. The term in French means “new art”.
- It began appearing in the early 1880′s and lasted until about the beginning of World War I.
- Previously art had been divided into fine art (painting and sculpture) and applied art (furniture, pottery and such useful items). However, this “new art” (Art Nouveau) encompassed all forms of art and design including architecture, furniture, textiles, pottery, paintings, sculpture, metalwork and even jewelry.
- Art nouveau combines geometric shapes with themes from nature, such as insects, plants, flowers, trees, and sometimes mythical fairies. Up until the period of Art Nouveau, these natural forms were not popular.
- The design is also often characterized by its organic, fluid, asymmetrical curves.
A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words
Here are a few side-by-side examples to help illustrate the differences between Art Deco and Art Nouveau:
To Sum It All Up…
These are the main points to remember to help you easily recognize whether it’s Art Deco or Art Nouveau:
- Art Deco is sleek, streamlined, linear, and symmetrical
- Art Nouveau is decorative, ornamental, “curvy”, and asymmetrical
You may find that one or both of these styles have elements that appeal to you. And that may have you wondering, “Is this my design style?”
Most people find that they are attracted to certain elements in a variety of different styles. Everything you like – even when it’s from a mix of styles – contributes to your own unique design style. The most important thing is for you to be able to recognize what elements you like within a style. In my course, Style Your Home Masterclass, I teach you how to uncover your individual design style. Understanding what you like is key to discovering your look and creating a home you love.
Are there specific elements in Art Deco and Art Nouveau that you are drawn to? Have you worked with either of these style in something you’ve designed or created? I’d love to hear from you. Leave your thoughts in the comments.