Art nouveau is an international style in architecture and design that emerged in the 1890s and is characterised by sinuous lines and flowing organic shapes based on plant forms

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  • Charles Ricketts, '[no title]' circa 1893
    Charles Ricketts
    [no title] circa 1893
    Relief print on paper
    image: 165 x 125 mm
    Presented by Sir C. Holmes 1924
  • Aubrey Beardsley, 'Design for the Frontispiece to John Davidson's Plays' 1894
    Aubrey Beardsley
    Design for the Frontispiece to John Davidson's Plays 1894
    Pen and ink, pencil and ink wash on paper
    support: 286 x 187 mm
    frame: 550 x 376 x 21 mm
    Bequeathed by John Lane 1926
  • Arthur Rackham, 'The Dance in Cupid's Alley' 1904
    Arthur Rackham
    The Dance in Cupid's Alley 1904
    Pen and ink and watercolour on paper
    frame: 464 x 771 x 40 mm
    support: 325 x 597 mm
    Bequeathed by Major-General Sir Mathew Gossett KCB 1909

This complex international style in architecture and design was parallel to symbolism in fine art. Developed through the 1890s it was brought to a wider audience by the 1900 Exposition Universelle.

In Britain, Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s designs exemplify the style, but in his work its characteristic flowing lines and organic shapes are seen within severe but eccentric geometry. Key examples of Art Nouveau are Paris Metro station entrances by Guimard; Tiffany glass; chair designs by Charles Rennie Mackinstish and his Glasgow School of Art; and the book designs of Aubrey Beardsley, Charles Ricketts and followers such as Arthur Rackham.

Art nouveau flourished in the first decades of the twentieth century but was killed off by the First World War.