Exploring the sensual nature of Art Nouveau through examples of sculpture, graphics, books, ceramics and furniture.

The period 1890 to 1914, which saw the rise and fall of Art Nouveau, was a complicated and turbulent time. Millions of people migrated to rapidly growing cities where aspiration sat alongside anxiety and doubt, and values of the past clashed with ideas about the future.

Of its time, Art Nouveau drew on issues such as personal and sexual liberation, feminism, youth revolution, religion, mythology, psychology, narcotics and the concept of mass manufactured art, enabling a widespread questioning of values.

Here, special focus is given to its tendency towards the erotic. Key exhibits include Larche's Loïe Fuller lamp which perfectly encapsulates the female form, and Bouval's Sommeil ou La Femme aux Pavots - a depiction of a sexually liberated modern woman​, with undercurrents of addiction and narcotics.

However, Art Nouveau faced heavy criticism and, accused of being superficial, decadent, promiscuous and even debauched, it slowly faded out of fashion.

It wasn't until the 1960s that it began to re-emerge, with examples on display revealing how it became the style of choice for stage sets and record cover designs of progressive rock and pop musicians, and also infiltrated aspects of the Pop Art Movement.

Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts

University of East Anglia, Norwich, Norfolk, NR4 7TJ

01603 593199

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Tue – Fri, 10am – 6pm
Sat - Sun, 10am - 5pm

Closed Mon, including bank holidays.

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