Art Nouveau, in its most narrow usage, refers to an exuberant style of architecture, often characterized by undulating surfaces and ironwork, that flourished for two decades in Belgium and France between the early 1890s and World War I (1914-18). Linked with developments across the arts, from furniture, poster and jewelry design to ceramics, typography and painting, Art Nouveau in architecture first emerged in Brussels, in the townhouse designs of Victor Horta. Brought to France chiefly through the work of Hector Guimard, the stlye quickly became associated with the image of Paris at the turn of the century in conjunction with the 1900 World’s Fair. Most iconic in this regard are the Paris Metro stations, designed by Guimard, initially built to assist with transportation to the fairgrounds. Art Nouveau is thus redolent of the latter phase of “La Belle Époque,” a period in European history often characterized (rightly or wrongly) by a carefree faith in progress, technology and modernity that was shattered by the unprecedented violence and destruction of World War I.
“Hector Guimard, Cité entrance, Paris Métropolitain” (Smarthistory, 2013, 5 mins.):