The Art Nouveau Whiplash Motif

Embroidery, Hermann Obrist: The Lone Cyclamen
Munich City Museum
note the Art Nouveau ‘Whiplash’ motif

Brooch

France, c. 1901

Brooch, enameled copper set with opals and pearls

V&A Museum

The Art Nouveau Movement (1890-1910) was a design movement defined by many motifs, but none more so than the Whiplash Motif. The whiplash and curved motifs of Art Nouveau are seen as universally characteristic and are an easy way of recognizing an Art Nouveau piece. (Arts and Crafts Movement Jewelery, which many would define as a cousin of Art Nouveau, also uses the whiplash motif to a slightly lesser extent. Also it is important to note that there are many other names for Art Nouveau that I will be discussing in future posts).

Art Nouveau interior, featuring a profusion of whiplash and curved motifs

Whilst not all Art Nouveau design pieces contain whiplash or curved motifs, they are generally considered the most commonly found design feature.  Some would say Art Nouveau curves have their roots in Rococo Scroll Work, others would say they are inspired by Japanese or Celtic design elements.  Whilst all of these are no doubt true, I have always thought of the curves of Art Nouveau design as originating from something deep within us and to be a reflection of our biological nature. Arguably, all design is exactly this, but the curves of Art Nouveau seems to emanate from our deepest levels rather than directly referencing other design movements. These spirals, curves and whiplash-like shapes can be found in both the natural and man-made worlds.

For example, have a look for the Art Nouveau-like curves in the following:

Fibonacci_curve

Now, spot the whiplash and curved motifs in the following beautiful Art Nouveau jewelry pieces:

Pendant
Pendant gold, enamel, opal, pearl, diamonds
Lalique, c.1901
Metropolitan Museum of Art
Pendant

France c. 1900, Lucien Gautrait.

Gold decorated with ‘plique-à-jour’ enamel and set with rose- and brilliant-cut diamonds,

opals and emeralds with an opal drop

V&A Museum

Pendant

Germany, c.1903

Enamelled gold, set with brilliant-cut diamonds, emeralds,a ruby, hung with a pearl.

V&A Museum

Brooch

France, c. 1903. George Fouquet.

Brooch, gold, silver, enamel, pearls and rose- and brilliant-cut diamonds

V&A Museum

Sources / further reading:

http://paterry.wordpress.com/2011/06/26/constructing-growth-spirals/

http://thetextileblog.blogspot.de/2009/05/art-nouveau-whiplash.html

http://binarybeam.blogspot.de/2012/04/art-nouveau-new-art.html

http://www.langantiques.com/university/index.php/Art_Nouveau_Jewelry

http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/articles/a/art-nouveau-and-the-erotic/

http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/articles/s/study-room-resource-art-nouveau/

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: