Citys like Nancy, Brussels, Glasgow, Barcelona, Munich, Darmstadt, Weimar and Vienna were within the most important creative poles of the mouvement. It is interesting to observe, that Art Nouveau didnt grow out of the major cultural citys of that time, but rather out of smaller towns that didnt play any important cultural role until then.
In Nancy it was Emile Gallé (1846-1904) the initiator and the master of the mouvement. In the same time ceramist, master glazier and cabinetmaker, he imbued his work, his life long, with his passion for botanics and nature. Achieved a great reputation, he founded in 1901, with his collaborators Auguste Daum (1864-1930), Louis Majorelle (1859-1926) and Eugène Vallin (1856-1922), the Ecole de Nancy also called Alliance provinciale des Industries de lArt (Provincial union of the Industries of Art) to promote the local manufacturing.
Glasgow of that time was a town in full industrial expansion and not much inclined to any artistic sensitivity. Nevertheless this town located at the periphery of Europe had, through the personality of Charles Rennie Mackintosh (1868-1928), his representant of Art Nouveau. Mackintosh and his collaborators, his wife Margaret Macdonald (1865-1933), her sister Frances (1874-1921) and her husband Herbert Mac Nair (1868-1928), were the four of them the representatives of the School of Glasgow. His hole life Mackintosh stood faithful to Glasgow, but never obtained the same dedication in his hometown with which the rest of Europe honored him.
The personality of Antoni Gaudi (1852-1926) marked by himself the town of Barcelona throughout famous works like the inachieved church of La Sagrada Familia or the parc of Güell. Enjoying a great artistic independency due to generous sponsorship of important catalonian personalitys, Gaudi developed a very personal and daring style, provocing at that time a lot of controversy, but he knew also to integrate into his work characteristics with which his catalonian public could identify. As a symbol of the catalonian mouvement for national independency, he enjoyed great respect and popularity in Catalonia, the end of his life was nevertheless marked by a total social isolation.
The german towns that had an importance upon Art Nouveau were first of all Munich, Darmstadt and Weimar. Called Jugendstil it was in Munich that the mouvement started throughout the personalitys of Hermann Obrist (1862-1927)), Bernhard Pankok (1872-1943), Richard Riemerschmied (1868-1957) and Bruno Paul (1874-1968). In 1897 are founded, still in Munich, the Vereinigte Werkstätte für Kunst und Handwerk (United workshops for art and handcraft).
Weimar aspiring also for progress and modernity, invited the Belgian Henry van de Velde whos reputation wasnt to make anymore. The town of Goehte and Schiller hoped of course, through such a personality, to promote her local craft and so to stimulate the economics of the town.
Vienna made in Art Nouveau figure of exception, because being one of Europs first political and cultural capitals then, it didnt had his reputation to make. The mouvement, marked through personalities such as Otto Wagner (1841-1918), Otto Loos (1870-1933) and Josef Hoffmann (1870-1956), wasnt felt there like a revolution, but like a part of the continuity of a capitals evolution toward modern times.
With one foot in the past and the other foot in the futur, Art Nouveau scattered with antagonisms and build out of contradictions did surely not aspire to be a school of style, but to be the reflection of a period of fondamental changes. Violent, passioned, juvenil, it let it up to its cultural descendants to deepen, to purify and to bring up to maturity this heritage.
At the beginning of a new millenium where our culture sees itself one more time in history confronted to fondamental changes in its structures, its maybe not a coincidence that Art Nouveau attracts again its fascination on us. As a cultural mouvement of a pivotal period it can, for us also, be a source of inspiration facing the challenge of the futur.