Sunday, May 9, 2010

Aussie Federation & Art Nouveau

Until the late 1800’s Australia followed the architectural and interior styles of Europe. English style was particularly popular. As the new country moved toward Federation Australian designers started to move away from these old influences. As a result the Art Nouveau designs of Europe did not impact on Australia as did the styles of the past.     

During the early 1900’s Australia celebrated Federation. As a result the Federation style became popular as Australia’s first unique style. The Federation era began in the late 1890’s and was influenced by Victorian and Edwardian styles. 

But the exciting Art Nouveau motifs were used in the detailing of some Federation buildings. Robert Joseph Haddon an English trained architect was one of the few to work in the Art Nouveau style in Australia. ‘Anselm’ his own home in Caulfield Melbourne contains wave like tiles in the Art Nouveau style in the bathroom and he applied the sinuous Art Nouveau lines to the outside brickwork. Others used the stylised floral forms of Art Nouveau with the Australian Waratah, flannel flower, lyre birds, emus and kangaroo motifs. 

The Outside of the Federation House 
Bold red brick walls  
Tuck pointing
Marseilles tiled roof
Bay windows 
Casement windows 
                Turned timber columns
                Finials with Australian decorative motifs 

The Interior Design of the Federation House
Australian motifs were used on interior timber work and the stenciling on interior walls
Stained glass: Art Nouveau motifs Australian native flora and fauna motifs
Interior walls  
Paint:   Soft muted greens, Ivories, Reds 

        Cornices plastered  
        Ceiling roses  
        Pressed metal ceilings 

Wallpaper or stencil  
        Formal wreaths patterns
        Fleur-de-lis of the French Empire style 
        Stylised floral forms of Art Nouveau 

Frieze up to a meter deep
Federation Motifs 

Australian motifs  
        Flannel flower 
        Lyre birds 

Classical patterns  
Oval shapes of the Adams style 
Iridescent glazed Art Nouveau tiles  
Shaped timber surrounds and mantel pieces 
Mirror incorporated into the design
Windows treatments 
Plain and fancy nets 
Chintz or plain material  
Brass rods  
Holland blinds with lace scalloped edges or inserts    
Elaborate heavy curtains used until 1920’s

Timber floors  - Varnish or black Japan formed borders  

Carpet squares 
Stair runners 
        Persian patterns  
        Floral motifs  
        Bold coloured backgrounds  

Fitted carpet had gone out of vogue  

Terracotta tiles 
Patterned tessellated tiles  
        In plain colours
        Imitation carpet designs
        Tiles designs 

Parquetry designs 

Furniture in the Federation House 
Queen Anne (one of the most reproduced styles in Australia)
Oriental cane  
The Wing chair 
Exotic plants  
Brass pots 
Ceramic pots  
Pot stands 

Australian designers created fretwork, leadlight, tiles, fabrics, wallpapers and decorative detailing in the Art Nouveau style but used the unique Australian motifs. Interior spaces were often decorated with a meter deep frieze. During this time the dado went out of fashion. Walls were often papered or stenciled. Pastel colours were popular for walls. The architectural detailing was brown and cream or stained timber.
There are a number of Art Nouveau buildings in Australia. In Melbourne: Victoria Arts Society, Milton House, Melbourne Sports Depot, Melbourne City Baths, Conservitorium of Music, Melba Hall, Paston Building and the Empire Works Building are some of the examples in Australia
The Wild Art Tile Company has a great range of Art Nouveau tile murals. This Australian firm has designed a range of murals based on the art work of Alphonse Mucha. You can find the tiles at  
The Australian artist Christian Waller worked as an illustrator in the 1920’s. She was inspired by classical, medieval, Pre-Raphaelite and Art Nouveau design. In the 1930’s her work changed, she moved from using the curvilinear of Art Nouveau to the angular forms, sunrays and zigzags of the Art Deco.
During this time she designed books and stained glass windows for Melbourne and Geelong churches. She also created a mural for the Christ Church in Geelong. She was one of the few Australian artist at the time to be influenced by the Art Nouveau movement.
‘Wherever you are in the world, 

there's always something 

about the Australian light. 

There's something about the 

sharpness of it, something about

the clarity of it, something 

about the colours of Australia.

And hopefully, something 

optimistic about Australian painting too.’
Ken Done Artist

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