Title: Eroticism and Consumerism in Art Nouveau and how sex sells.
Question: Discuss, using specific examples of design and promotion, how themes of eroticism and consumerism were bound up in Art Nouveau design.
Name: Hayley Rawlingson
Student Number: 12415555
Module Code: 2DD1003
Art Nouveau was hugely popular between 1890 and 1910. It originated from the British Art Movement known as The Arts and Crafts Movement. The style of Art Nouveau is highly decorative and detailed; the style was not only used within traditional painting and lithographs but also in architecture, jewellery, home furnishings and clothing. Art Nouveau carries certain traits and characteristics which make the style well recognised; it tends to use floral decorative imagery, curved lines, and the female form. It took a lot of influence from Japanese wood blocks. The style was very much influenced by an artist known as Alphonse mucha, who produced a poster advertising cigarettes which was displayed in Paris in 1895, I shall look at this specific piece in greater detail further into my essay. Maurice Rheims, an Artist historian, wrote “Art Nouveau arose out of symbolism and its sources are as diverse & bewildering as those of the parent stream.” Throughout the essay i shall be exploring the themes that are projected in the style, specifically Eroticism and also looking at consumerism in some detail to understand why it became so popular. In terms of consumerism there may be a reason as to why Art Nouveau was such a success, usually art was seen as a luxury for people from a well off background. Art Nouveau challenged this idea of social class, as a quote by: Elisabeth Horth. (2009). Guest Column: The Social Agenda of Art Nouveau. Available: http://www.collectorsweekly.com/articles/guest-column-the-social-agenda-of-art-nouveau/. Last accessed 9th Dec 2012. 'Art Nouveau artists did not work in isolation. They belonged to large groups that wanted to change lives, to bring art to all the different social classes, not just rich people but the labour classes, too. The idea was that Art Nouveau was designed for everybody, the poor and the rich.'
Alphonse Mucha (1860-1939), deemed 'The Father of Art Nouveau' was a Czech artist well known for his Lithograph pieces, specifically one of his most famous pieces, an advertisement for Job cigarette papers. Although he did not consider himself as an Art Nouveau artist his work was in that style. This poster is one of the earliest examples of the idea that 'sex sells', which supports the theme of eroticism displayed in Art Nouveau. At the time when marketing was increasingly important it was realised that sex sold the products. This did not just apply to Art, in this era it applied to everything as this quote supports: P.L.Selfe. (1975). The mass media. In: P.L.Selfe Sociology: An introductory course. 2nd ed. Surrey: Nelson. p140. 'Film makers in many part of the world had more freedom from censorship and there was growing evidence that films showing explicit sex and violence were in demand almost everywhere'.
It is known that upper class people purchased a lot of Art Nouveau goods, but also it became apparent after reading certain articles that middle class were also big consumers of the art, this is because they wanted their homes to be luxurious and decorative and they strived to achieve this.
The female form was used a lot in Art Nouveau. Consumers were both female and male; We may ask ourselves why the art was popular in both genders? Men were very much attracted by the whole idea that sex sells, the women looked very desirable and scandalous which made the products very appealing. The advertisement for Jobs cigarettes does this perfectly. The male population consumed cigarettes more so than women back in the Art Nouveau Era. By placing nude, beautiful women on an advertisement for them they may have been more appealing to buy and thus the company sells...
Elisabeth Horth. (2009). Guest Column: The Social Agenda of Art Nouveau. Available: http://www.collectorsweekly.com/articles/guest-column-the-social-agenda-of-art-nouveau/. Last accessed 9th Dec 2012.
P.L.Selfe. (1975). The mass media. In: P.L.Selfe Socialogy: An introductory course. 2nd ed. Surrey: Nelson. p140.
Wikipedia. (2007). Sex in Advertising. Available: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sex_in_advertising. Last accessed 8th Dec 2012.
Unknown. (Unknown). Art Nouveau and the Erotic. Available: http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/articles/a/art-nouveau-and-the-erotic/. Last accessed 10th Dec 2012.
Robette Absinthe poster by Henri Privat-Livemont 1896.
Jobs Cigarette Papers Ad by Alphonse Mucha.
Jobs Cigaratte papers, 2nd advertisement by Alphonse Mucha
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