Most museums have already opened their doors to the autumn exhibitions and we will report on those too, but there is one exhibition which is about to close its doors that we haven’t discussed yet: Goddesses of the Art Nouveau at the Allard Pierson Museum in Amsterdam.
Art Nouveau in a museum for Antiquity is more obvious than it seems. Art Nouveau means New Art and even though artists wanted to create something new, they remained surprisingly traditional in their iconography. One of the sources of inspiration in the Art Nouveau was classical antiquity and especially the female gods.
This greatly appealed to the imagination of (male) artists resulting in many exquisite art works. Art Nouveau women were worshiped for their beauty but at the same time they were feared for their seductive nature. As allegorical figures they could be used in advertisements as well as in jewellery and other applied art (lamps, vases, candlesticks, furniture) which a abundantly displayed on the exhibition.
Looking at women in such a way seems contrary to the social changes taking place at the same time. Whereas women depicted in Art Nouveau represented the ideal live providing stability and beauty, real women were fighting for their rights in the suffragette movement.
Graphic designers played an important role in promoting both these aspects of the early 20th century society. It was a buzzing time with many new products invented and the designers of the promotional posters and lithographs used the modern visual language to attract the attention of the public. That is why many people today know about the Art Nouveau, through the beautiful advertisements that were made, the work of Alphose Mucha probably being the most famous ones.
So, do not hesitate and go to the Allard Pierson this coming week to enjoy this beautiful exhibition before it is over! Wendy Fossen 16th October 2021
The exhibition ends on 24th October