Art Nouveau is influenced by Japanese art, especially by tusche paintings. Earliest perceptions related to Art Nouveau are be found in England: Preraffaelites, Ruskin, Morris, and Scotland: Charles Rennie Mackintosh. Very important was France: fin de siècle (end of century) movement, Hector Guimard and his designs for Paris Metro entrances, René Lalique’s jewellery, to name a few. In Belgium there were Victor Horta and Henry van de Velde who later on went to Germany, in Austria Josef Hoffmann.
Fundamental elements of Art Nouveau design are the line and the curve. Slim and stringy iron constructions were invented. Horta used lines and curves as graphical ornaments, Guimard tried to bring lines into space and created compositions of iron, glass, and air. But van de Velde considered a dynamic, abstract line as intrinsic construction element. He said:
“A line is a force, acting like all elementary forces; several associated but antagonising lines provoke the same as antagonising forces.”
The early Art Nouveau furniture designs by Henry van de Velde show already conceptions of lines and curves clarifying the constructive logic of objects, as can be seen in the design of armchair Bloemenwerf (1894/95). It was the demonstration of what van de Velde called his New Style, whose subject was reason.
Consequently Henry van de Velde’s Art Nouveau became more constructional than decorative.
This basic concept remained determining. Following furniture designs were often simple, tectonic constructions, e.g. the piano bench Maria van de Velde (1902), tabouret (1902) or armchair Nostiz (1904/05). The reclining chair (1903/05) is chaste and almost abstract in his construction.
Henry van de Velde’s Art Nouveau is more concise and to a certain extent reduced, compared to contemporaneous furniture of Art Nouveau designers.
Henry van de Velde remained without big influence in Belgium during his early years, since Victor Horta was dominating, especially as an architect. Van de Veldes success came when he moved to Berlin (1901) and Weimar (1902). Here he got the chance to plan and built houses including their interior decoration and furniture designs. Hence he became one of the exponents of Art Nouveau in Germany.
Taking into account Henry van de Veldes primacy of reason it is not surprising that he founded the Arts and Crafts seminar at Weimar (1902) which in fact turned out to be the predecessor of the later Weimar Bauhaus.