Art Nouveau in the United Kingdom

A design by Archibald Knox made for the company Liberty & co. The company is so famous that in Italy, the Art Nouveau style was called Liberty style (stile Liberty)

In 1850, the United Kingdom was the leading power in the world, economically and military. Its economy has ruled the world since the first industrial revolution and its huge market: its empire. The military power made by the Royal Navy protected the trade. The endavour of Arts and Crafts was stopped by a mediaval mania and by aristocratic tastes for classical buildings, the only type of building that "would fit" the capital of the world's biggest empire: the British empire. In fact, Arts & Craftsended with the domination of England over the world, this domination is transfered to the United States that will save the old world from the German danger during the first world war. England had already big a competitive problem against its colonies and the country was not as rich as it had.We can see a wink in the movement named "Craftsman" in California after the English movement. The ancient English colony has come to the first place at the turn of the century.

Arts & Crafts:

This movement took its roots in the works of the architect Pugin and the art critic Ruskin. They could not stand eachother because one was catholic and the other protestant (Is this really a good reason?) but their ideas about what should be architecture were very similar. Pugin developped an architecture that respected the place where it was built,an architecture based on gothic efficiency and gothic Englishness. Ruskin emphasized even more on the need of efficiency and trueness of the architecture.He liked also a somewhat raw architecture. If the plan is not symmetrical due to its function, the architect sould not try to hide this as in a neoclassical point of view, he must take part of this dysymetry and articulatehis composition around it.
The English Arts & Craft Movement was in fact conpounded of sevral guildes (like those in the middle ages, remember: gothic had a great influence) that were composed of artists for several goals ranging from learning eachother arts and crafts technics to companies formed on a commercial purpose tosell hand-made furniture. These artists were generally politically on theleft wing but with various opinions. The most wellknown guilde was Morris&Co; created by Morris and his friends (Dante Gabriele Rossetti, Edward Burne Jones, ...) in 1860. Morris wanted to revolution workers conditions and get them work as a craftman in the middle ages with some "initiative" and rejecting the machines, he even rejected the automatic saw which really improved work conditions. His furniture was full hand-made and so veryexpensive. It was reserved only to very rich people. Which was opposite to the goal of changing workers' life by introducing good quality art objects in their life! This point of view could not resist to the economical situation in England.

Ashbee is the artist that had the most convincing work with its ArtWorkers' Guilde. He was not as opposed to machines as Morris, he tried to give an economical reality to his guilde, moving to the countryside in order to associate crafts to agriculture and breeding to become autosufficient.(Crafts did not brought sufficient income if affordable prices are to beset). Even with this, his project failed and he needed the help of an American millionnaire. But he managed to give craftsmen initiative and life quality. The main cause of this failure was the reduction of the market (return of the taste to historical styles) and even for Art & Craft furniture, a number of copies have been made available at low cost by Art students.

Voysey began by designing some cloth patterns with a lot offloral work. As an architect, he developped a really personnal style withits bare white plastered houses with large strips of windows. The work of Voysey was total but less integrated to the landscape as the Ruskin and Pugin ideal. His plans were well elaborated. He had a strong influence on Mackintosh.

The garden city movement

The starting point of this movement is a book by Hebezner Howard in 1898: "Garden cities of tomorrow". This theory designed idealautarkic town devided in several belts: town center, surburbs, and agriculturalarea. Two features are really in the spirit of Art Nouveau: the role ofnature that came already from japonism and a social preoccupation for ArtNouveau architects. A lot of green surburbs have been designed in Europeas pseudo garden cities like the park Saurrupt in Nancy or the Paulus quarterin Darmstadt.

Aesthetic movement

Aubrey Beardsley is well known for his erotical drawings. Black and white linear work influenced by Japonism.

Pre-Raphaelist brotherhood

It was a group of English poets and painters created in 1845. Maybe the first avant garde art movement in the world. the stain glasses of Edward Burne Jones and the critic John Ruskin have influenced a lot Art Nouveau

Liberty & Co

Created by Arthur Liberty in 1875, the department store started by selling objects from Japan and the East. Under the direction of Godwin a famous Arts & Carft and Aestetic architect, it began to sell fabrics with, among others, its famous small flower patterns. The store became one of the most fashionable place to shop in London. It sold also Art Nouveau items by many wellknown designers like Knox or Art Nouveau companies like the porcelain company Doulton.

In the store of Samuel Bing in Paris called "Art Nouveau", you could also find both Eastern objects and Liberty objects. Art Nouveau in Italy was called Stile Liberty after this company. The role of Liberty in the broadcast of Art Nouveau objects all over Europe was key.


Glasgow is one of the few places in UK where you will find Art Nouveau architecture.

The Art Nouveau movement in Glasgow was named the "Group of four". It has been created by Charles Rennie Mackintosh.Other members of the group are Herbert Mc Nair and the two sisters Margaret and Frances Macdonald who maried respectively the two men. The work of Mackintosh had a very strong influence in Art Nouveau and especially on the evolutions of many artists including Vienna and Darmstadt

Many buildings by Mackintosh are now part of the tourist agenda when visiting Glasgow. The will to value this heritage has lead to the construction of the "house of an Art Lover" after a project by Mackintosh that was never built for our greatest pleasure. The project was originally for Darmstadt. More info by visiting Glasgow

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