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In the late 19th - early 20th centuries, as a sign of the denial of classicism and realism and following the eclecticism that prevailed, in particular, in architecture, a completely new style appeared - modern. The style is synthetic, which arose not as a result of the logic of the development of society as a whole, but created by the efforts of individual outstanding artists.
Art Nouveau was based on the principle of organic combination of form and content, existing on an equal footing. The secondary, however, was not recognized at all, everything should be functionally justified, natural and at the same time decorative. Clearly distinguishable techniques of the Art Nouveau style are stylization, ornamentalism, architecture.
In search of images and means of expression, the creators of Art Nouveau turned to nature. A truly inexhaustible source of inspiration has opened up for them. Movement, naturalness, clarity of lines, organicity and integrity of every creation of nature, be it a flower, a tree or a natural landscape - all this is reflected in an exquisite and sensitive modernity. An important role is played by color, a natural color of the same nature, but not directly borrowed, but refracted in the artist's perception.
Well, what about man-made landscapes? Beautiful gardens in lilac fogs, with running paths, colored foliage, pale blue forget-me-nots, amazing viols, drowning in the breath of white lilies and roses. How realistic are Art Nouveau gardens and parks? Is it a fairy tale, a reality or a bizarre fantasy? Probably both, and the third.
Romantic parks of old noble estates, planted one hundred and fifty, or even two hundred years ago - then, at the turn of the century, they were already fully formed, even slightly overgrown and, perhaps, a little neglected, with alleys, winding paths. It is easy for us to imagine a gazebo, almost completely entwined with honeysuckle, near an old lake covered with water lilies. A stream flowing out of the lake, along the banks of which irises, reeds and sedges, meadowsweet and forget-me-nots grow. The stream is so overgrown that you can guess its bed only by the dotted line of individual water fragments. Trees and shrubs have grown, filling the space of the park, and it is no longer possible to distinguish between artificially created landscapes and preserved corners of nature. Everything is very natural, with a touch of age-old existence.
Here it is appropriate to recall the fascination with antiquity and nationality: dense epic forests and thickets, endless flowering meadows, green hills. The surrounding vegetation slowly penetrates the artificially created plantings of the parks. Shoots of mountain ash and birch appear, in the shade of old trees, lilies of the valley and kupins grow everywhere, and meadow grasses openly rage in open glades: chamomile (cornflower), bells, tar. The park is no longer a park, but a part of the natural landscape. All this is perceived as, albeit formal, but unity with nature.
At that time, the idea of naturalness was supported by the dachas under construction in the suburbs and became fashionable for summer holidays and leisure time. This is so familiar to us. Dachas, as a rule, were located in woodlands and were ennobled with unpretentious plantings of flowering shrubs and climbing plants. Rapidly growing lilacs, garden jasmine (chubushnik), honeysuckle, rose hips (especially old French varieties), viburnum Boulle-de-Nege over time gave the plantings the status of a garden as a kind of decorative formation. All changes in such a garden took place gradually and very organically, spruce and birch, lily and daisy peacefully coexisted here. It is a reality, but there is so much romance in it!
… and fiction
For a spectator inexperienced in botany, ancient parks make a very romantic impression of a magical, fairy-tale forest or a fantastic garden, where the path is not just a path, but a path into the unknown, the unknown, leading beyond the horizon. A flower is not just a flower, but a harmonious object. Even the divine embodiment of absolute functionality with perfect beauty of form. Nature is endowed with a deeper meaning, universal purposefulness and becomes almost the only source of knowledge of beauty, the meaning of worldly existence and the mystery of the universe. Beauty covered with a veil of the unknown. Although one can feel in this philosophicality a kind of frivolous contemplation and frank playfulness (either "champagne in a lily", then "pineapples in champagne").
However, cognition was not long in coming. And now, in the mansions, the interior and exterior interiors are made in the Art Nouveau style. Everything is very decorative, but functional and simple - there is nothing superfluous. Wrought iron stair railings, cornice decoration, lamp brackets of appropriate design. Mosaic stained glass windows and doorways are inspired by magical gardens and exotic plants. Furniture, screens, draperies - everything is covered with a peculiar floral ornamentation, with fluid forms, graceful curves, stylized flowers and dragonflies.
And, of course, the old garden that surrounds such a mansion also requires transformation. There aren't many transformations, but they immediately defined the style.
Wrought iron garden benches, lanterns and fences, pillars of the gazebo, as well as the bars on the windows of the house, represent intertwining shoots of vines, in which the stems and flowers of daffodils, irises and lilies are entangled. The lines of paths, lawns, reservoirs are very elegant and clear, they are distinguished by the fluid smoothness of the bends. A lot of free space, the background is clearly visible.
There are few plants in groups, and a single plant always dominates in a group - perhaps as a symbol of decadent individualism, incomprehensibility, or as an image of a unique human personality. Plants match the style: irises, peonies, primroses, roses, lilies, daffodils. Vines are sure to be present - hops, loach, honeysuckle, honeysuckle. In such gardens, the influence of the East (Chinese and Japanese gardens) is often visible, be it peacocks walking along the paths, rabatki with irises or pergolas.
Still, the gardens in the Art Nouveau style are largely the fruit of the creation of human imagination, inspired by the romance of old parks and fashionable cultural trends at the turn of the 18th - 19th centuries. They remain largely ghostly, virtual, invented, symbolic, romanticized, and at the same time beautiful and sophisticated. Their creation is possible, and there are examples of this from the history of landscape architecture that is closer to us. But this is not quite right. This is a new modernist style, new trends in architecture and art. They are no less interesting and beautiful, but this is the topic of another story.
candidate of biological sciences
(Based on materials from the magazine "Stylish Garden", January 2004)