Today, art nouveau is considered to be an art form dedicated to beauty. Yet this decorative style, which flourished around the turn of the 20th century, was much more than that: it was a broad reform movement that touched on all aspects of life. Art nouveau artists regarded themselves as designers of life as a whole, creating works ranging from lavish ornamentation to plain forms and from unique, luxurious, handmade items to products manufactured in volume. What they could all agree on was the idea that all aspects of life should be carefully designed in a consistent way.
The decorative arts museums established in the late 19th century played a crucial role in helping to spread this new style. The city of Dortmund’s Museum für Kunst und Kulturgeschichte founded in 1883 is a case in point. In 1900, the museum’s long-term first director Albert Baum traveled to Paris to attend the Exposition Universelle, where he had the foresight to make some groundbreaking purchases.
Starting with the museum’s own collection, this publication aims to present art nouveau in all its diversity. In addition, it takes a look at the eventful history of that era and explores its significance to our contemporary world. The book also investigates traces of art nouveau that are still visible in Dortmund’s urban landscape.