Mary Downes and John MacLaverty – Sex and Sensibility-The Allure of Art Nouveau (2012)

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An outstanding three-part BBC4 series that looks at how the Art Nouveau movement flourished in the burgeoning cities of Europe at the end of the 19th century. Aired March-April 2012.

Episode 1: Paris
BBC cultural correspondent Stephen Smith explores the delicious objects of Parisian Art Nouveau. He delves into the city’s Bohemian past to learn how some of the 19th century’s most glamorous and controversial figures inspired this extraordinary movement. Revealing the story behind Alphonse Mucha’s sensual posters of actress Sarah Bernhardt, looking at the exquisite jewellery designer Renee Lalique and visiting iconic art nouveau locations such the famous Maxim’s restaurant, the programme builds a picture of fin-de-siecle Paris.

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Episode 2 of 3: British Cities
In this episode Smith unearths the bright, controversial but brief career of Aubrey Beardsley, explores the stunning work of Mary Watts and the shows influence of department store entrepreneur Arthur Liberty. In Scotland, he celebrates the innovative art nouveau of Charles Rennie Mackintosh, but looks harder at the extraordinary and influential work of Mackintosh’s wife, Margaret MacDonald.

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Episode 3 of 3: Vienna
In a story that combines scandal and revolution, Smith explores how Vienna’s artists rebelled against the establishment in the late 19th century and brought their own highly-sexed version of Art Nouveau to the banks of the Danube. Looking at the eye-watering work of Gustav Klimt, Smith discovers that Viennese ‘Jugenstil’ was more than just a decorative delight, but saw artists struggle to bring social meaning to the new style. Revealing the design genius of Josef Hoffman, the graphic work of Koloman Moser and the emergence of the enfant terrible Egon Schiele, Smith unpacks the stories behind a style that burned brightly but briefly at the fin de siecle.

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