antiques · art · books · novels · romance · the antique love

Art nouveau, and all about antiques

Last week I wrote about the history and landscape of London’s Richmond Park, which is one of the settings in my novel, The Antique Love. (Release date 30th August 2013)

Some of the action of The Antique Love also takes place in the antique shop run by the heroine, Penny.  Penny’s shop contains an eclectic mixture of antiques, from clockwork toys, to old dress fans, to rare books.  Her favourite part of the shop, though, is the jewellery collection, and in particular an antique love toke.  Penny has formed one of her romantic attachments to this love token, and she refuses to sell it until she finds the right customer. Here’s what she tells the hero, Kurt:

“Just look at it,” she said.  Didn’t he see?  “I could fall in love with the beauty of it.  Think of the hours of work and the craftsmanship and the century of history behind it.  The person who leaves the shop with this pendant will buy it because he has to have it.  And he won’t be buying it on a whim.  He’ll be buying it for the woman he loves with a passion.” 

One day the right customer does walk into Penny’s shop – but it’s not the man she expects!

Here is my inspiration for Penny’s love token:

the antique love, art nouveau, love token
Photo courtesy of Adin Be Jewellery

This love token is made from platinum and gold, with seventeen rose diamonds, and two pearls in the centre.  It’s a wonderfully crafted design, and I absolutely love it.  It dates from the turn of the twentieth century.  The style is a mix of Victorian and art nouveau.

I often find the Victorian style a little too ornate and fussy.   All those bows and tartan on the dresses, the parlours cluttered with ornaments, and the trend for ostentatious jewellery.  The art nouveau period, at the turn of the twentieth century, swept away all these frills and furbelows, and it’s a style I love.

Art nouveau is French for “new art”.  It’s hard to sum up in words what this new art meant, but I’ll try!  To me, art nouveau is all about dramatic, curving lines with themes and colours taken from nature.  The terraced house I live in was built during this period.  Sadly, the original stained glass windows in my house are long gone :( , but I have a replica which encapsulates the art nouveau style:

art nouveau, the antique love, helena fairfax, antiques

The window is in the style of the art nouveau artist Rennie Mackintosh.

The art nouveau style can also be found in architecture, and some of the best examples are in the old Metro stations in Paris.  And Art nouveau is becoming popular again today in the form of Steampunk.  This is a photo of a couple of pages of my brilliant steampunk graphic novel, Grandville Bête-Noire, by Bryan Talbot.  You can just see the art nouveau Metro sign, and a few other examples of this style in the posters on the walls:

art nouveau, steampunk, antiques, helena fairfax

Here’s also my art nouveau glass light-shade.  Sadly not an original – I wish!

art nouveau, antiques, the antique love

And my art nouveau tiles and old Mills and Boon books :

the antique love, art nouveau, antiques

If you’re interested in finding out more about the art nouveau style, there are lots of examples here in London’s Victoria and Albert Museum website.

I hope you’ve enjoyed my brief introduction to the art nouveau style.  One thing I share with my heroine, Penny, is trying to picture the people who enjoyed these old objects.  Some people prefer houses furnished on more modern and minimalist ines.  What do you think?  Old or new?  Or a mixture?  If you enjoyed my post, or have any comments, please let me know!

10 thoughts on “Art nouveau, and all about antiques

  1. What a lovely pendant! No wonder it inspired you! I can’t wait to read Antique Love…Not to long now! Thank you for this great post, Helena. I love Art Nouveau art by Klimt, Gaudi and Mackintosh too, especially Klimt!


    1. Thanks so much, Marie! I also LOVE Klimt. How strange you should mention him! Not to give too much away, but you will see why if you read The Antique Love. Thanks for your great comment!


    1. Hi Susan, I didn’t realise you worked in stained glass. How wonderful! Do you have any photos? I would love a Tiffany style shade, and your Mackintosh shades sound lovely. Thanks for coming, and for your great comment!


      1. Helena, I made a Tiffany style lamp for my son. As I write this in my living room, I’m looking at the first lamp shade I ever made which is still my favorite and then a floor lamp. I was watching television and saw a lamp on the show that I liked. I quickly put in a tape to record it and later made the lamp.

        For my sister’s Mackintosh lamp, she brought back etchings of some of his works. And I took it from there.

        Susan Bernhardt


  2. Great post Helena. I too love Art Nouveau. We have two Klimt prints in our back lounge and had an open fireplace in the front lounge installed when we moved in to replace the 1970s gas fire, as the old original fireplace had been ripped out – we chose Art Nouveau tiles for this. I like the swirls and the organic nature of it all.


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