Famous Art Nouveau Furniture Designers

Instructor: David Juliao

David has a bachelor's degree in architecture, has done research in architecture, arts and design and has worked in the field for several years.

In this lesson, we will explore the work of some of the most important designers of Art Nouveau furniture. Learn about the main characteristics and distinctive elements of the furniture designs that represented this artistic movement.

Art Nouveau Furniture

The last years of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century are often remembered with a certain romanticism. The images of luxurious and elaborate interiors are common. Furniture pieces resembling trees and flowers became very popular and the style that emerged became known as Art Nouveau. It was named after a Parisian art gallery, which promoted innovative designs.

Art Nouveau was an artistic style that started in France at the end of the 19th century and developed until the start of World War I. It was seen in Europe and America and was especially popular in France and Belgium. Art Nouveau touched all forms of arts and was very innovative in architecture and industrial design, with creations that broke with traditional ideas coming from decades ago.

The style had some local variations in the different places where it developed, but there were some common characteristics that most pieces of Art Nouveau furniture shared. They were often inspired by nature and had abundant references to trees and flowers. Plenty of curved lines were used for the different elements of the designs. Art Nouveau searched for asymmetry, and although furniture design continued to be mostly symmetrical because of its functional nature, sometimes designers incorporated small asymmetrical details. Fine finishes were common and noble woods like mahogany, walnut, or maple were combined with more exotic ebony or snake-wood, delicately polished and varnished.

Art Nouveau desk and chair, by Hector Guimard
Art Nouveau desk and chair, by Hector Guimard

Famous Art Nouveau Furniture Designers

Art Nouveau had a relatively short lifespan, but during its years of popularity many designers created furniture and other design pieces that have become a reference of that time. The following are some of the most famous Art Nouveau furniture designers:

Hector Guimard

Guimard was a French architect, best-known for designing the cast-iron entrances to the Paris Metro. He believed in the integration of all the elements of a building, so he often designed the furniture and all the interior details for his architectural projects. His furniture incorporated curved lines and floral motifs, common of Art Nouveau, and had a subtle search for asymmetry expressed in the incorporation of small details and ornaments that were different on each side of the piece. He often used mahogany and maple with a fine varnished finish. Guimard's designs were complex and difficult to produce, so they were not affordable for the general public.

A Buffet by Hector Guimard
A Buffet by Hector Guimard

Louis Majorelle

Majorelle was a French furniture designer and decorator. He came from a family of furniture manufacturers, so he was able to personally produce many of his designs. His furniture pieces had abundant curved lines and he became known for the use of elaborate bronze embellishments made from curved lines and floral motifs. Majorelle often combined alder, walnut, or mahogany with exotic woods like snake-wood, creating interesting combinations of dark and lighter tones. After World War I, the designer shifted his style towards the newer Art Deco.

Bedroom Furniture by Louis Majorelle
Bedroom Furniture by Louis Majorelle

Émile Gallé

Gallé was a French designer who is considered one of the most important figures of Art Nouveau because of his exquisite glasswork. He also created many furniture pieces. His designs were often inspired by exotic places like Japan or Africa. The furniture pieces usually incorporated curved lines and plenty of embellishments, which more often were ornaments rather than part of the actual construction. Gallé's work was notorious for the use of wood inlays of different species that depicted trees, birds, and even entire landscapes. He also looked for incorporating asymmetrical elements on many of his designs.

Shelf Furniture by Emile Galle
Shelf Furniture by Emile Galle

Antoni Gaudí

In Spain, Art Nouveau was combined with local influences and became known as Spanish Modernism. Architect Antoni Gaudí was the main promoter of that artistic movement and is famous for his masterpiece, the Sagrada Familia and other singular buildings in the city of Barcelona. As many architects did at the time, he often designed the furniture for his buildings. He also created sculptures and metalwork pieces. Gaudí's furniture designs incorporated the curved lines and floral motifs of Art Nouveau, combined with a more traditional Catalonian look, sturdier and not very ornamented.

Chair by Antoni Gaudi
Chair by Antoni Gaudi

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