Art Nouveau (French – “New Art”) was a aesthetic of the late 18th century to the early 19th century that questioned the very nature of aesthetics. As art and design moved toward the modern era, Art Nouveau was a truly international style that maintained strong aesthetics despite of industrialization. Artists such as Alphonse Mucha and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec are great examples.
The Japanese Ukiyo-e (pictures of the floating world) design movement was a major influence on the western art world during this time period, and this was a driving influence in Art Nouveau. Ukiyo-e is expressive and organic line art which remained an important design aesthetic in Japan for centuries. Unlike the arts and craft movement, Art Nouveau was not just focused on the small time artist or craftsman. Art Nouveau also translated to everyday objects, furniture and architecture, to stained glass and well known for the poster ads of the era.
Some artists and designers of the time such as the The Glasgow Four preferred the aesthetics of Geometry to the sometimes heavily floral embellishments of Art Nouveau. The Vienna Secession was another group that experimented with spatial relationships and layout design. This experimental era was the advent of modern design.http://www.secutor.se/ukiyo-e/umaxi009.jpg See Art Nouveau posters at http://www.internationalposter.com/style-primer/art-nouveau.aspx Check out Japanese wood block printing at http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/ukiy/hd_ukiy.htm