Around the turn of the twentieth century, artists and craftsmen throughout Europe and America were profoundly affected by a new art style that took its inspiration from nature. Generally referred to as Art Nouveau, it exerted its influence on painters, illustrators, architects, ironworkers, furniture designers, interior decorators, potters, jewelry designers — in fact, nearly every kind of artist-craftsman. While Art Nouveau is a broad and varied style, it is almost uniformly characterized by abstract, asymmetrical, curvilinear design. The thrust of this "new art" was twofold: to elevate the status of the "crafts" to equals and partners of the "fine arts"; and to bring a designed object into a harmonious relationship with its environment through the use of lines — either expressive or controlling — that were natural, vital, and most importantly, organic.
Among the most imaginative realizations of these pervasive rhythms and serpentine patterns was the ironwork that was created during this period and still exists in major European cities (chiefly Paris and Brussels). Gates, railings, balconies, doorways, staircases, elevator cages, grilles, lampposts, and many other architectural features reveal the sinuous forms, foliate motifs, expert craftsmanship, and rich detail characteristic of the style.
No other existing work documents so extensively and accurately the full range of Art Nouveau ironwork. Derived from now unavailable sources, this new anthology attests to the enduring qualities of both the design and its constructive material. Graphic designers, illustrators, architects, artists, and craftspeople of all disciplines will discover numerous ornamental ideas, authentic motifs, and design solutions among the 137 royalty-free photographic illustrations. Collectors and enthusiasts unfamiliar with this particular area of Art Nouveau will delight in the exquisite craftsmanship, ornamental felicities, and juxtaposition of strength and beauty as they observe these unyielding iron creations fashioned into delicate germinating buds and wandering tendrils. Captions for the photographs provide the building, city, architect, and designer of the ironwork. These latter include such notables as Victor Horta, Paul Hankar, Louis Majorelle, Charles Plumet, and Emile Robert. Their work and that of many others is preserved in this fine selection of photographs.