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'Art Nouveau, Continental Design & Sculpture' on view at the Fine Art Society in London
Walter Gilbert and his assistant Louis Weingartner, Birmingham Guild Ltd. (maker), Pair of panels from lift at Selfridges department store depicting Zodiac sign, Bronze.

LONDON.- The Fine Art Society presents an important exhibition of Art Nouveau and Continental design, alongside sculpture from the late 19th and early 20th centuries from The John Scott Collection. The exhibition includes works by both British and European pioneers of the period including Hector Guimard, Emile Galle, Archibald Knox and Gustave Miklos. Highlighting the vitality and seductiveness of forms developed in decorative arts and sculpture during the epoch, the exhibition includes furniture, architectural pieces, glass, ceramics, metalwork and sculpture.

Art Nouveau was a brief but highly significant movement in art and design at the turn of the 20th century. Characterised by sinuous lines and flowing organic shapes based on plant forms, this new visual language was brought about by a group of artists and designers who self-consciously sought to find a style appropriate to the modern age.

Architectural highlights include a cast iron plaque from Hector Guimard’s iconic designs for the new Paris Métro stations of 1899-1900. These designs, visible in the ninety stations still in use, are not only exemplars of Art Nouveau but also emblems of Paris itself. Significant furniture by Guimard is also being exhibited, including an elegant occasional table designed by Guimard, almost certainly from his own home l’Hôtel Guimard, built as a wedding present to his wife in 1909.

The exhibition displays a jewel-like collection of works from the master Art Nouveau glassmaker, Emile Gallé. A student of philosophy, botany and drawing, Gallé became a pioneer of technical innovations in glass. Included in the show are examples of his characteristic use of deeply coloured, almost opaque glass in heavy masses, with layered marquetry and carved or etched surface decoration. Other memorable works in glass include a pâte de verre sculpture, Poisson Malebranche, by Salvador Dali. The French glass manufacturer Daum Crystal began commissioning famous sculptors, designers and painters to design sculptures for their company in 1965. The collaboration between Daum and Dali began in 1968 and lasted until 1984. Dali was enthralled by the translucent quality of the material, evident in this work.

Important silverware includes a fine claret jug designed by Archibald Knox as part of Liberty & Co.’s pioneering ‘Cymric’ metalwork range. Knox produced many innovative and original designs for Liberty in both pewter and silver, with a distinctive aesthetic inspired by the Celtic revival. This is one his purest Cymric designs exemplifying the low key, English branch of Art Nouveau.

The exhibition also features ceramics including stoneware ornamental finials for washing lines and wall plaques from social housing estates in Somers Town, designed by sculptor Gilbert Bayes and manufactured by Doulton. This quirky architectural decoration marked a period of renewal in this central London ‘slum’ and was designed as artwork accessible to all.

Sculptural highlights include a piece unique bronze bust by sculptor Gustave Miklos from 1929. The piece was purchased directly from the artist’s widow in 1967 by the king of Art Nouveau dealers, Bob Walker, and has remained in the Scott Collection ever since. Never previously exhibited, the sculpture was known only to exist from a contemporary photograph taken in the artist’s studio.

Collectively, this exhibition presents a rare opportunity to acquire important works from the radical Art Nouveau movement by some of its leading exponents.

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