Art Nouveau Whiplash Motif
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 Jewelry, 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 have discussed in this post.)
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.
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