I am a few days late in celebrating International Women’s Day (March 8th) but wanted to contribute a little something I was inspired to create, celebrating an important art movement and time in women’s history.

The beauty of the Art Nouveau Artistic Movement is one that captivates me, I find the organic forms and patterns are so pure and appealing. Taken from the French, it literally translates to “New Art” and originated out of a distaste for Victorian era designs, which were considered cluttered and overdone.

I noticed the Art Nouveau hallmarks of bulbous forms and swooping lines delivered beautifully in decoration, furniture and jewelry. Japanese wood block prints were an inspiration with their intense curves, yet also had a kind of stark pureness.

I also noticed that women were a constant symbol for this style, but what I didn’t immediately realize was that this was also an important time in the start of women’s liberation. Being just prior to World War I, Art Nouveau lasted only from about 1890 until about 1910, which was the time in which many women in Europe and North America began to fight for their right to vote. These efforts weren’t successful for most countries until after the war was over (and many women, unfairly, had to wait much longer depending on other factors…but this isn’t a history blog so I encourage you to investigate suffrage movements in your country and around the globe to learn more), and women weren’t celebrated as artists in the Art Nouveau movement, more seen as subject or muse, but this time period laid the groundwork for many laws to be passed finally including women in civics. 

Now the images of women of this era were featured not only in print, but in fabric, wall coverings, fashion, and accessories. Both a gentleness and a show of strength were represented in their images as well as the other artistic and design features of Art Nouveau. I was fortunate to receive a wonderful book full of images that complemented books I already had. After going through each I found an appropriate base for the collage.

Aiming for color, patterns, and these stunning female figures to come together organically, I began to choose the images I wanted to work with. Once I had found several I was excited about, I got to working on the balance and visual appeal of the collage.

Balancing the pieces with color and those without was not as hard as I thought. The curves and designs went together so easily, and the color palette was similar in all the pieces I chose. The images fell right into place as well.

Ascribing my own interpretation to the images of the women, rather than just placing them there because of their beauty as the original artists may have done, I placed one brave risk taker suspended, another elegant woman on a staircase looking up observing, and the third with a bit of concern watching such a task. Showing bravery, calmness and concern amongst a beautiful backdrop, the women in this artistic story are working together to accomplish something great. The rest of March is Women’s History Month here in the US, so make sure to spend some time learning about the important women through time and across the world.

Collage is so satisfying, and it seems to be like putting one’s own puzzle together with purpose. Using limited materials to put the pieces together to “fit” once you’ve found your images. You make your own rules, choose your own subject and your imagination and intent becomes real.