Iconology and Art Nouveau

October 24, 2014 § Leave a comment

In this lecture we looked at iconology which i really liked because I like analysing icons and there meanings and how useful they are. We also looked at Art Nouveau, which I also find interesting and i good part of design history.

My notes…

Anna Powell- Iconology & Art Nouveau- 24/10/14

Lecture recap

  • Design, art, fashion, humour
  • Looked at visual art being code
  • If there is not a natural connection- there is a cultural one
  • Signifier, signified and the sign
  • Iconology and culture
  • (Arbitrary- doesn’t mean anything)
  • The meaning isn’t always obvious
  • Language structure and other ways to communicate


  • Meanings are not always obvious
  • This can enhance the impact
  • Historical and theoretical impact (Erwin Panofsky- 1939)
  • Using visual evidence to unlock meaning
  • Looking as apposed to just seeing

Metaphor- where meaning is derived through association, comparison or resemblance

Take a painting for example….

  • Stage 1- what you see at face value- could suggest what style it is, what it is; shape/form/colour- is there any text?
  • Stage 2- reading between lines/behind image- understanding the concept

-Desperate housewives- old title sequence at the beginning of the show

-Jane Van Eyke- wedding portrait 1434

  • We then looked at St. Nick (Santa, Coca-Cola advert- 1963- jolly, red cheeks, chubby belly)
  • Pagan Santa- 1912- wearing green, without the text saying “Merry Christmas” and the holly we might not know what the image is portraying

-Richard Howells- 2003- painting…

-Erwin Panofsky- the 3 levels of ‘strata’ of iconological meaning

  • First ‘strata’- primary natural level of analysis
  • Second ‘strata’- conventional level- culturally specific
  • Third ‘strata’- intrinsic level- making assumptions

Jason Munn, MOMA screen-prints

The first image is an eye being panted, which could represent our eyes painting us a visual picture. It also has a line to make it look like a record, which could represent what we ‘record’ using our eyes.

The second image is of the eye as a camera, which could be what our eyes and minds visually record and remember from what we see in our lives. It can represent our memory and what it records.

We looked a postage stamp that has hands holding and is uniting the flags- shows a sense of community.

We looked at the abbey road poster and used the 3 levels of ‘strata’ to analyze the poster….


Art Nouveau


The ‘new’ style- ground breaking at the time- gone by the First World War

  • Peter Brehrens- 1898
  • Henry Van De Velde- 1899
  • Popularized through ‘Jugend’ (‘youth’) magazine in Germany- 1896

It was about…

  • Quality in materials
  • About the well being of a nation
  • Had to be good quality (non-machinery)


  • Response to urban growth, technological advances- people in the art world lost there sense of self because of machinery based design
  • This brought about Art Nouveau- lots of obscure patterns and shapes
  • Lots of things outlined in black and white
  • Rejecting lots of designs from before
  • Modernizing design
  • Abolishing the hierarchy of the arts- for example- like painting being better being a silver smith


  • Alphonse Mucha
  • Aubrey Beardsly

Elvira studio- Munich

  • Gesamtkunstwerk- everything being aligned and out on the same level- no one thing better than the other
  • Criticized for it flexible ethos- set rules and then they were broken slightly- some of the work was embellished


  • Vienna Secession….

(look up the arts and crafts movement- could have it in book/magazine form last year)


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