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© 1993-2012 Frank Derville
Bruxelles is the world capital of Art Nouveau, I have noticed more than 300 Art Nouveau buildings in Bruxelles and Victor Horta is reputed having built there the world's first Art Nouveau building : Hôtel Tassel. It was in 1893. At this time, Belgian industry was growing at high speed because of the richness of the ground in coal. Major business was done in the chemical, glass, iron, clothing sectors. In the arts sectors, the second part of the XIXth century saw architecture trying to root itself in the most traditional building style, creating the Flamish Renaissance renewal (till 1895). This trend is close to the will of creating and showing a national feeling in this young country (created in 1830). The cultural life at the end of this century was very dynamic as well in literature (Emile Verhaeren is one of the first of the Belgian authors with an international success) as in painting (groupe des XX).
The name "Art Nouveau" was first created in this country (half of its inhabitants speek French). And was associated with a will of creating a new tradition centered on the human beeing. Art Nouveau artists were often concerned by all the aspects that surround us therefore architecture was a place of integration of all arts including dressing design (Van de Velde designed for his wife a dress that aimed to suit particularly well in one of the room of his house!). Many artists developped numerous skills, to make a global design of the houses. Victor Horta, the most well known one, designed the houses from the plan to stone work, from the furniture to the towels and chimney railings.
There are two major Art Nouveau architectural trends, the first one leaded by Horta can be surnamed "curve Art Nouveau"; the second one "geometrical Art Nouveau" is leaded by Hankar and was partly influenced by Vienna and Scotland.
We can classify Art Nouveau architects into the two trends:
Van de Velde can be put in both classes.
Exchanges, international influences were important in the developpement of Art Nouveau. Van de Velde moved to the Netherlands and Germany. Gallé and Majorelle (Nancy) designed interiors in Bruxelles. Josef Hoffman (Vienna) designed the Palais Stoclet until the Teapot set and was helped by Klimt for the decoration.
Bruxelles is the most important Art Nouveau town in the world. It is very pleasing to wander in Bruxelles streets searching for the strange beauty of Art Nouveau : follow the guide. A museum is dedicated to Victor Horta and many other museums display Art Nouveau objects or are homed in Art Nouveau buildings.
Antwerpen Art Nouveau is not as important as Bruxelles but it is very interesting to visit Cogels Olsylei block. This block at the south of Antwerpen was entirely planned at the end of last century. The Art Nouveau and historiscism buildings are side by side creating a unique sensation.
Van Averbecke, Bascourt, De Weert,...
Belgium is really the country of Art Nouveau, every little town has its Art Nouveau buildings : Tournai (Dornik), Gent (Gand), Liège (Luik), Charleroi, ..... There are many many things to see and enjoy...
More specific links about Bruxelles, Tournai can be found in the dedicated sections.
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