Jugendstil was an artistic style or design movement that arose in Germany around the mid-1890s and continued until at least the end of 1910. The movement also spread throughout the other German speaking and Nordic countries.
It appeared to originate from the Berlin Werkstatte – the collectives of artisans and craftspeople that flourished during the era. The name ‘Jugendstil’ literally means Youth Style and derives from the Munich magazine Die Jugend (‘Youth’).
With the Jugendstil design sensibilities there came a reverence for youth, for nudity and a more liberated sexuality, for all things ‘natural and free’. Women wore their hair long and flowing, corsets were ditched and a general joie de vivre was embraced by all. (I have always maintained that these naturalistic movements of the late 1800s were a precursor to the 1960s American cultural revolution).
There were two somewhat distinct phases in Jugendstil. Prior to 1900, the designs tended to be floral and to be more influenced by Art Nouveau and Japanese design, as well as more Victorian in flavour.
Later, came a more abstract and architectural phase, at times machine like, pre-echoing by over a decade the geometrical designs of the Art Deco era. (This later phase was greatly influenced by the Belgian architect Henry van de Velde.)
Jugendstil is a cousin of the English Art Nouveau movement and certainly has much in common with the Arts and Crafts movement. Although often referred to as the ‘German Art Nouveau’ (even by myself), Jugendstil is quite distinctive and is also compelling in its originality and character.
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