For me the consummate appeal of the movement lies in these attributes (and in this order):
its energetic representation of form, disciplined yet elegant use of color, subject matter, understated humor, and yes, a little of my own romantic nostalgia for a bygone era....
Regarding the energetic representation of form, the fellow below, Hermann Obrist, was a noteworthy early practitioner. His wallhanging The Cyclamen (1894) became emblematic of the early movement, and gained notoriety when its description was published in Pan magazine as "...sudden violent curves generated by the crack of a whip"; subsequently, the work became known as The Whiplash (a title that could just as easily be applied to that mustache...)
|The Cyclamen (1894)|
There are about 25-30 pure collections of Art Nouveau images available at DoverPictura.com. When I say pure I'm talking about collections that fall squarely and entirely within the traditional definition of movement—but we've got lots of other collections that are partially comprised of Art Nouveau images, or are from related art movements. Next post I'll give a tour of some of those collections–with an eye toward the energetic representation of form.