The last decade of 19th century and the first one of 20th gave birth to a new spirit of industrial new age. Modernism brings a vitalist touch of hope: industry is believed to help spiritual and material fields of life. Modernism is a widely spread movement. It suggests an impression of agility with its curve lines and subjets inspired from Nature. These features will be applied to daily objects, even to underground, in order to make people familiar with this feeling.
Modernism is an international style: an urban and bourgeois manifestation. Middle-class opens his mind and becomes cosmopolitan. Fashion is shown in illustrated magazines that spread over Europe. A new necessity of change and innovation is created everywhere. Artists try to create a new style without references to tradition in its ways or subjects.
First manifestation of Modernism can be seen in furnitures and objets of common use. They get a strong ornamental component. It is inspired in delicate flowers and animals in a process that almost comes to abstraction.
Decoration must never be something added to objects, but a part of them intimately connected to its structure. Symmetric systems will be rejected, searching for ondulations called little whip line suggesting liveliness or strength rather than symmetry and regularity. A touch of optimism according to its social class is expressed. Scholars say that Modernism is young, new, blooming... That is why it has recieved different names: Art Nouveau, Liberty Style...
Attention will be paid to drawing and to totality of arts. Drawer will also be a decorator. That makes modernist buildings look really atractive.
- A forerunner, William Morris and Arts and Crafts movement:
William Morris is varied: writter, critic, speaker, politic, director of firms... He is identified to socialism and a fighter for craftsmen rights. Indeed he is interested in drawing. When he was married in 1860 he found a trouble for furnishing his "Red House". At this moment, United Kingdom's high level of industry was destroying craftsmanship, whose products were really ugly in comparison with industrial ones. Morris conducted a textile industry with architects and important drawers. So 'Arts and Crafts' was created: looking at craftsmanship rather than industrial production. Slowly this movement will be identified to Modernism in its aim for innovation and artisan improvement applied to machines.
- First statements:
Industrial arts will most clearly show this change. Specially in curved surface backs of MacDonald Murdo's chairs, in textile tapestries by Van de Velde, glasses by Emile GallÚ. Also Tiffany creates important objects in glass as color glasses lamps with lead threads as those of medieval vitrailed windows.
Another important manifestation is jewelry as RenÚ Lalique's one. He renewed modernist jewelry standing out because of shape and originality in drawing and not because of the price of gold or gems. Tiffany worked half-precious gems with a wise use of varnish. They are generally ostentatious jewels to show off at the Theater. His crystal works were usually sold in Samuel Bing's shop and influenced drawing and colors of european glass. Tiffany took his ideas from Irish medieval art. His first success came from Chicago Exposition in 1893, where he detached because of his delicate chromatism and his formal imagination.
Beatriz AragonÚs Escobar.
Licentiate in Art History