"Art Nouveau was the first self-conscious, internationally based attempt to transform visual culture through a commitment to the idea of the modern."
Paul Greehalgh, 2000

Art Nouveau has many characteristics in common with its parent, the Arts and Crafts Movement. It has been associated with such features as ornament based on plant forms, honest expression of underlying structure, and freedom from past design traditions. The first exposure most Buffalonians had to European Art Nouveau architecture was the Standard Paint Company pavilion, brought to the Pan-American Exposition from the 1900 Paris World's Fair. This style did not catch on in the United States, which makes Esenwein & Johnson's Art Nouveau buildings exceptionally rare examples. However, the use of Art Nouveau in the decorative arts was widespread in America during the first decade of the twentieth century. The popularity of Art Nouveau ceramics perhaps played a role in Esenwein & Johnson's consideration of the architectural possibilties of glazed terra cotta.

Here are some examples of Art Nouveau work produced concurrently with Esenwein & Johnson's progressive designs.


M.H. Birge & Sons of Buffalo was one of the leading wallpaper manufacturers in America. During the first decade of the twentieth century, this firm produced designs that ranged from traditional to Arts and Crafts and Art Nouveau. Birge showcased the designs in room mockups decorated with the appropriate furnishings and finish.
Published in The Birge Book for 1907, this decoration was "designed and colored to produce an effect similar to the interiors decorated by Will Bradley," the American master of Art Nouveau.


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Birge Wallpaper sample (1904)

 

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