Obviously I can’t get enough of them!
For some reason, I expected Helsinki to be a rough-around-the edges modern industrial city. Instead I found a city full of delightful architecture, much of it dating from the early 1900s. This was the heyday of the worldwide Jugendstil or Art Nouveau movement.
My apologies to those who received a post with no content. I was trying to re-blog a post on “How to Travel in Winter” from one of my favorite travel blogs, “Picnic at the Cathedral.” I’ll try again!
I’m just getting around to sorting my many photos of my first trip to Hungary, this past December. One of my favorite stops was the House of Art Nouveau in Budapest. As I explained in a recent post, it’s not so much a museum as a collection of stuff that ordinary people owned, used and loved. Hungary enjoyed one of its few periods of peace and relative prosperity between about 1890 and the outbreak of the First World War.
Furniture styles at the beginning of the period were staunchly conservative, even a little stuffy. I’m not an expert, but I might call the bedroom set above a version of the “Biedermeier” style popular with the new middle classes of central Europe between about 1815 and 1850.
The cozy dining nook above sits next to an Art Nouveau stained glass window original to the house. It looks ready for a cozy chat and a nice cup of coffee.
Later in the period, the height of fashion was for furniture with fanciful flowing lines, like this dressing table.
I’ve seen much finer examples of Art Nouveau in the design museums of Paris and Vienna, but I love the common touch of the everyday pieces haphazardly crammed into Budapest’s House of Art Nouveau.
And there’s a cafe, perfect for a quick meal while dreaming of the past. The smiling waitress asked with great interest where we were from. She thanked us profusely for coming to her country! This friendliness is just one of the reasons why I love Hungary.
Between about 1890 and the outbreak of the First World War, an artistic movement developed and spread all over Europe and even in the United States. It was called Art Nouveau (New Art) in French and Jugendstihl (Youth Style) in German. In Austria, and especially in Vienna, it flourished as the Secession movement. Artists like Gustav Klimt, along with designers and architects, wanted to “secede” from the stodgy academic past. The emphasis was on flowing natural forms, and sometimes on simple but elegant geometrics.
In Budapest, I visited the Magyar Secession Haza, known in English guidebooks as the House of Art Nouveau. I wouldn’t exactly call it a museum; nothing is really labelled or explained. It’s just an authentic house from the Secession Era, built in 1903, and stuffed from top to bottom with objects a well-to-do but not aristocratic family would own during the time period. It’s a place to wander and to conjure up the people who lived with these objects.
Old photographs of ordinary people bring the past to life. Women pose coquettishly with flowered hats and elaborate bouquets.
Who was this child? Why the festive feather in his cap? Was this perhaps a photo taken just before he graduated to long pants?
New production methods made elaborate (if not always tasteful) objects available to the middle classes. What is the object above? A candle holder? A four-foot-tall candy dish? Hard to say, but it graced someone’s parlor.
The figurine above would never be shown in a serious museum of decorative arts. But I can see its appeal to the person who brought it home a century ago, during one of the rare periods of peace in Hungary. This lady seems to celebrate youth, freedom and the sheer joy of life. The Art Nouveau movement also celebrated the right of ordinary people to own things they considered beautiful, whether they served a useful purpose or not.
The website of the House of Art Nouveau is at http://www.magyarszecessziohaza.hu/mainen.php
The Art Nouveau movement featured so prominently in the Paris 1900 Exhibit was expressed in the smallest details of daily life. I saw several beautiful examples of decorative combs to be worn in women’s hair.
Natural forms were everywhere, but developed into the most sophisticated designs.
One of these combs would be just the thing to anchor an artistically tousled chignon.
My favorite item, though, was a short fitted jacket in linen and cotton. It was made special with elaborate assymmetrical embroidery and all manner of fine needlework details. In 1900, women had all kinds of new freedoms. I can see a fashionable woman grabbing this jacket and tossing it on over a simple skirt, on her way out the door with plans to cross Paris on the newly-opened Metro subway. I’d have cheerfully taken this jacket home right out of the display case. I think it would look great with jeans.
Join me next time for more explorations in the art and history of Europe!
The Paris 1900 exhibit had delicious examples of the all-important art of dressing–always a priority for the French. No wonder women who could afford it traveled from England and America just to buy their wardrobes.
I loved this dress, just the thing for attracting admiring glances–and filling up one’s dance card–at a ball. I can hear the music!
Fine leather boots would look fetching while stepping out of a carriage.
An elegant skirt and ruffled blouse, maybe for entertaining in one’s Paris town-home. The sinuous curving lines of Art Nouveau were not just for furniture. Women delighted in wearing Art Nouveau.
The Belle Epoque–what an era!
Join me next time for more explorations into the art and history of Europe!