Art Nouveau is characterised by an elaborate ornamental style with sinuous linearity and flowing organic shapes based on plant forms. It can be seen most effectively in the decorative arts, for example interior design, glasswork and jewellery. However, it was also seen in posters and illustration as well as certain paintings and sculptures of the period.

The movement took its name from La Maison de l'Art Nouveau in Paris, a shop keen to promote modern ideas in art. It was influenced by the Symbolists most obviously in their shared preference for exotic detail, as well as by Celtic and Japanese art. It was brought to a wider audience in 1900 with the Exposition Universelle in Paris.

Art Nouveau style is exemplified in the Paris Metro station entrances by Guimard, Tiffany glass, Mackintosh chairs and his Glasgow School of Art, and book designs of Beardsley, Charles Ricketts and followers such as Arthur Rackham. Other exponents of Art Nouveau include Gustav Klimt, Antonio Gaudí and René Lalique. Art Nouveau was highly successful all around the world, until it was killed off by the First World War.