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Women, mostly young and elegant and often merged with nature, are everywhere in art nouveau: from commercial poster girls to allegorical figures, from conservative role models to icons of feminism – but rarely women of flesh and blood.
The female artists who were able to stand their ground in the male-dominated world of art nouveau also used allegorical female figures.
The fin de siècle was a period of incisive change: urbanisation, the rise of mass consumption and advertising, industrialisation, the class struggle, the women’s movement, the large-scale distribution of print.
Artists and designers went in search of new forms; the new art, art nouveau, became popular throughout Europe as it was distributed through magazines and posters, but also through the world expositions which presented the latest applied art for the modern bourgeoisie to embellish their lives with.
The book contains work of Alphonse Mucha, Gustav Klimt, Aubrey Beardsley and René Lalique and also of the women artists Loïe Fuller, Sarah Bernhardt, Wilhelmina Drupsteen, Käthe Buchler and Sylvia Pankhurst.
Goddesses of Art Nouveau sheds new light on an extraordinary era and on the question as to how the image of women was used in paintings, spectacular jewellery, the Rolls Royce mascot, advertising posters and book covers, made by women and men.