Museu Arte Nova

Aveiro, Portugal | C.1909

Photo Credit: Juan Galán

Distinguished by its curves, natural themes, and materials, the Art Nouveau style of architecture swept Europe in the early 20th century. From 1890 to 1910, the style dominated building design and facades throughout the continent, eventually finding its place in Portugal. The Museu Arte Nova in Aveiro celebrates this architectural style and its historic presence in the city.

In Portugal, the popular style was known as Arte Nova, and the country’s wealthy bourgeois brought it to cities not only for its aesthetic beauty, but as a way to assert their social and economical influence. In the early 1900s, the style was most popular in Lisbon, Oporto, and Aveiro.

Unique to Aveiro, many buildings feature tiles with Art Nouveau motifs — and this was the only Art Nouveau detail expressed in the building’s design. Since these titles were affordable and available to the general public, they were common in Portuguese construction. In Aveiro, the tiles also helped to waterproof buildings and enhance the use of adobe, or sun-dried clay bricks.

By the onset of WW1, the style had exhausted its influence and was no longer as popular. Following in prominence was Art Deco, a style that emerged in France around 1925. A departure from Art Nouveau’s, embellished aesthetics, this style was distinguished by its bold geometric forms and bright colors. Yet, by the 1960s Art Nouveau reemerged in retrospect, when the MoMA hosted a major exhibition on the style.

The Museu Arte Nova is housed in the Casa Major Pessoa, an Art Nouveau-style building built in 1909. The Museu’s exhibit includes a network of 28 Art Nouveau houses in Aveiro where guests can take a walking tour to witness each stunning facade in person.

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