Modern Art Lessons – Arts and Crafts and Art Nouveau


As Impressionism and Post-Impressionism guided painters towards more abstract shapes and away from the glorification of the past, another movement was well underway.  The Arts and Crafts movement is dated from the 1860s – 1910.   As galleries and exhibitions continued to value the ornate and ostentatious, artisans started looking for ways to increase the beauty of a home with simple, purposeful, and well-crafted items.   Here materials mattered, and function mattered, and ornaments were secondary or viewed as unnecessary.   There was a reliance on bold colors and vivid patterns that were exciting without being over-decorated.

Library table, 1904William Lightfoot Price

Library table, 1904
William Lightfoot Price

The handicraft gained appreciation as a reaction against the over-mechanized, industrialized tones of the time.  One person creating one good from start to finish was rare in a world where factory lines assembled endless bits of products.

During this movement, we see a trend occurring in the world of painting during 1890 – 1905 that has been classified as “Art Nouveau.”  In these paintings we see artists using organic, flowing lines based on what they saw in nature, but creating this style with bold lines and shapes.

See the works of: Gustav Klimt

Rossie NouveauSee more of Rossie’s quilt here…

Jenna Nouveau

Look at these paintings and see how they are filled with modern quilting patterns.  With the wabi-sabi crosses, squares and triangles, certainly we can link our quilting movement to this era in history.

After learning more about the Arts and Crafts movement, I had greater appreciation for this quote from the Modern Quilt Guild:

“Modern quilts and quilters… make primarily functional rather than decorative quilts”

Indeed, our projects are not overly ornate.  Whereas many art-quilts may employ beading, wires, and glue as decoration, the Modern Quilt is meant to be comforting.  Even if hung on a wall as decoration, these blankets are made to warm a space (literally and figuratively).  There is a respect given to the “homey” nature of the quilt, rather than an undervaluing.  And certainly any quilter can appreciate the valuing of the individually created versus mass produced.   The admiration of the individual is especially evident in the world of modern quilting, as improvisational piecing and free-form design means more blankets are made without patterns and can therefore never be precisely recreated.


Filed under Inspiration

7 responses to “Modern Art Lessons – Arts and Crafts and Art Nouveau

  1. Manya Lisse

    what does wabi-sabi mean?

  2. Loving this series, Jenna! I love that we’re getting it in little digestible bits.

  3. I agree with Rossie, Jenna… I’m loving this series and it definitely puts the modern quilting movement in a much broader context, which is cool to see!

  4. thanks for the lesson. i am learning a step at a time

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