Goddesses of Art Nouveau

Postponed until December 2020

The Allard Pierson, in partnership with two museums in Germany, is compiling an exhibition about the international art nouveau movement. Key features of this style, which held sway throughout Europe from 1890 to 1910, are flowing lines and floral motifs. Another characteristic is the frequent depiction of beautiful females. Many of them are divine figures taken from classical antiquity, Byzantine icons, medieval legends and contemporary muses.

Fascination for female beauty

In the exhibition ‘Goddesses of Art Nouveau’ this fascination for female beauty is examined more closely in the context of the social developments of the period. What is particularly striking is that the women, with their luxuriant hair and transparent robes, not only looked like goddesses but also functioned as such. Almost invariably they symbolized something larger than themselves, lending designs a symbolic meaning and often embodying higher ideals, human feelings or timeless virtues.

The exhibition features not only goddesses but also nymphs, angels and fairies in jewels, sculptures, drawings, magazines and advertising material, and on all sorts of decorative objects made of silver, glass or ceramics.

On display are works by Alphonse Mucha, Gustav Klimt, Aubrey Beardsley, René Lalique and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, as well as countless objects by other celebrated designers, with particular attention for female artists. Photography and film also feature, with the exhibition including a film recording of the revolutionary Serpentine Dance by Loïe Fuller, the dancer who greatly inspired art nouveau artists.

In ‘Goddesses of Art Nouveau’, the Allard Pierson presents a large number of book covers, book illustrations, posters and feminist literature from our own collections of printed matter and from the collections of Theater Instituut Nederland, which are administered by the Allard Pierson. Also included are loans from numerous Dutch museums and private collections. In addition, the exhibition features many items of applied art on loan from the Baden State Museum in Karlsruhe.

The exhibition has been compiled by guest curator Dr Yvonne Brentjens and is organized in collaboration with the Baden State Museum in Karlsruhe and the State Museum of Braunschweig.

‘Goddesses of Art Nouveau’ is made possible thanks to support from the Mondriaan Fund, the dr. Hendrik Muller’s Vaderlandsch Fonds, the De Gijselaar-Hintzenfonds, the Amsterdams Universiteitsfonds and the Vrienden van het Allard Pierson.