Artists associated with the Art Nouveau movement were outspoken. As a reaction to the Victorian era’s heavy-handed opulence, they depicted natural, organic scenes with clean, simple lines and light, reflective colors. The art nouveau movement started in 1890 and lasted until around 1915. The art nouveau style, which was popular in the United States and Europe, spread to all aspects of art and design, from painting to architecture and sculpture. Art nouveau sculptures are three-dimensional representations of the artistic movement’s style and principles.
Art nouveau sculptures, like other types of sculptures, can be made out of a variety of materials. Art nouveau statues are made of clay, stone, metal, fibers, and wood, and they are found both in the original period and as a modern homage to one of many influential art movements. The artist’s choice of medium is solely based on personal preference. The use of gleaming, shimmery, or opalescent materials like mother of pearl, glass, and mica was common during the nouveau art periods.
During the art nouveau period, there were a number of notable three-dimensional artists. Julien Causse was a French mixed-media artist who created striking art nouveau sculptures that encapsulated the movement’s artistic spirit. Julien Causse created La Fee des Glasses, or “The Snow Queen,” with artist Ernest Leveille. A girl made of metal wire sits atop a chunk of ice made of cracked glass in this sculpture. Julien Causse’s sculptures can be found in many private collections.
Another art nouveau artist, Jean Dampt, worked with wood, glass, and metal to create artwork, sculpture, and jewelry that encapsulated the period. Some of his sculptures were purely decorative, while others served a practical purpose. Dampt’s furniture pieces were as much works of art as they were functional items. Some of his works are in private collections, and the Musee d’Orsay in Paris houses an entire collection of Dampt’s sculptures, paintings, and useful objects.
Sculptures from the Art Nouveau period, like other works of art from the time period, were primarily created for commercial purposes. The blending of form and function was one of the defining changes of the art nouveau period. Sculpture from the time period was created not only to be admired but also to serve a purpose. Because many art nouveau sculptures also served a functional purpose, they are rarely exhibited alongside display-only art, and those that are may show significant wear and tear from previous use.