Art Nouveau is a style that orginated at the turn of the 20th century. It has a different name in most European countries as it is, for example, called Jugendstil in Germany and Nieuwe Kunst in the Netherlands. The movement's characteristics also differ per country as they can often be traced back to national folk art. Art Nouveau in Scotland and England (where it is known as Modern Style or Liberty) is based on Celtic motifs from centuries ago. This means that there is not really one universal Art Nouveau style. Charles Rennie Mackintosh's furniture (Scotland) varies immensely from the designs of Antoni Gaudi (Spain), Emile Gallé (France) and Carlo Bugatti (Italy).
The two most important movements in Art Nouveau furniture art are the curvilinear and the geometrical movement.
Curvilinear, Art Nouveau furniture or decorative furniture sets itself apart by displaying elegant, bending, winding and often a-symmetrical lines. Its shapes and decorative motifs are based directly on nature; leaves, flowers, fruits, animals (bats, dragonflies, snakeskin pattern, feathers of peacocks), shells, lianas (winding plants that resemble whips), creepers and many other natural forms. These universal shapes are often shown on exclusive furniture in the form of a woodcarving, intarsia (inlay of different kinds of wood but also of shells and ivory) or marquetry. The construction of the furniture can be completely inferior to the decorative ornament. Some furniture seems to have been shaped organically and will combine beautifully with particular paintings or ingeniously woven fabrics. This really is traditional furniture at its best! It is a pity that only a small group of artists and intellectuals were interested in this new visual language. The conservative-minded civilians were not interested in it at all... But, nowadays, more people are gaining interest in the Art Nouveau/Jugendstil movement. It is only a matter of taking risks and accepting new things.