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Although going by various names, Art Nouveau in France and Belgium, Jugendstil in Germany and the Baltic states, Modernisme in Barcelona and Secession in Munich and Vienna, the artists, designers and architects who embraced the concept of ‘new art’ all pursued the same goal, which was to create a style that reflected an age marked by rapid change. The fashion for reworking previous styles, Classicism, Gothic, Renaissance or Baroque, was swept aside. Not only did artists explore new stylistic expressions based on natural forms, but they also experimented with new materials – concrete, ceramics, metalwork and ceramics.
Cities such as Barcelona, Paris and Helsinki were transformed. In some cases, such as Helsinki and Barcelona, the mission to create new art forms was linked to a desire to establish a national identity. This helps to explain the marked stylistic differences that occurred across Europe. Often the new art is exemplified by the work of a leading avant-garde architect: Gaudi in Barcelona, Mackintosh in Glasgow and Wagner in Vienna. These men all shared a vision to create visually stunning buildings bound together by the concept of the ‘Gestamtkunstwerk’; they were to be total works of art with all aspects of a building, both exterior and interior, unified through style.