How to Paint Art Nouveau

By Deborah Walden

Things Needed

  • Assorted paint colors
  • Small paintbrush
The popular art nouveau style changed the face of cities around the world.

Although art nouveau paintings fall under the umbrella of one particular style, works from this movement remain diverse and unique. The art nouveau movement rose out of late-nineteenth and early-twentieth century Europe. Its artists demonstrated a love for color, feminine forms and organic lines. Art nouveau painters drew inspiration from Japanese prints, so many paintings from this movement exhibit surface flatness and ornate floral decoration. When making your art nouveau painting, concentrate on the aspects of this movement that you find most appealing.

Use fluid, organic lines that loop and curl on your painting. Art nouveau artists were inspired by the linear designs of Celtic art and used these forms in their works. Alphonse Mucha's "Four Seasons" print shows this trend.

Turn other forms in your painting, such as hair or branches, into intricate systems of lines. Extend the lines from trees or a woman's hair into fluid, organic forms. Alphonse Mucha's "Job" print demonstrates this technique.

Use seasonal palettes of color. Many of Mucha's works use autumnal browns, golds and blush pinks. Gustav Klimt's paintings show bold mosaics of spring colors, like green, violet and vivid blue.

Incorporate the female form into your painting. Art nouveau artists were drawn to the curving, graceful lines of the female body, and art nouveau works strongly favor female subjects.

Use negative space in your painting. Leave portions of your painting blank to contrast against finished, busier parts of the canvas. Art nouveau artists such as Gustav Klimt were not afraid of blank space.

Paint flattened forms with no shading. Many art nouveau paintings possess a textile, flat quality inspired by Japanese woodblock prints. Use dark outlines around forms, with no shadows to suggest volume, to achieve this effect. Many artists, including Jules Cheret, Alphonse Mucha and Aubrey Beardsley used this technique.

Tip

Study images of art nouveau works to gain inspiration.

About the Author

Based in Nashville, Deborah Walden has been writing professionally since 1997, starting as a sports writer for her college newspaper. Her articles have appeared in "Nashville Arts Magazine" and "The Nashville Scene," among other publications. Walden holds a Master of Arts in art history from Vanderbilt University.