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3 simple ways to tell Art Nouveau from Art Deco

Sunday, 29 December 2013  |  Anne

Do you ever wander round and antique fair or take a look on line and see jewellery and other antiques described as Art Nouveau and Art Deco? I do and it often makes me smile as the dealers selling these items often have the wrong one of these two styles written down. 

 I admit when I first started learning about antiques I found it a bit confusing too. To go into depth about both styles would fill books never mind a blog post but there are 3 simple guideline which will help us to tell the difference:

1. Curves vs Angles


Art Nouveau is about curves and Art Deco about straight lines and angles.  If there are lots of curves in the design such as in the lady brooch to the left you are talking Art Nouveau. If the design in very square or triangular then its Art Deco such as in the picture below




2. Age

The Art Nouveau era came first , we see pieces in this style from circa 1880s to 1910's. During the 1910's the style became a little more angular and is sometimes known as transitional .

The Art Deco style ran from circa 1920 to circa 1940s with some 1950s pieces still showing the influence.

Note: Both of these sets of dates are approximate. Style does not start on a specific date and end on another. It takes time to get fashionable , time to spread round the country and time to fade out again. Communications make this process much faster today than it was in the past. Also these dates are for the first time the style was popular . There have been revivals since such as 1970s art nouveau and 1980s art deco influenced design. So a piece with art nouveau design could be much later than the true art nouveau era and the same applies to art deco.

3. Colour pallet and materials

This one is a bit more subtle but the two style had different colour ways and some of the materials used were not available during the nouveau era . Bakelite is a good example of this.

Art nouveau stones were pearls, turquoise and moonstones. Also peacock colours of blue and green shaded into each other.  These colours are quite romantic. Art Deco stones are much bolder with  more primary colours :Black, white, emerald green, bright red, orange and yellow .

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