Italian Liberty Style (1895-1914)

Liberty style influenced architecture, figurative arts and applied arts. Its name referred to Arthur Liberty. The movement appeared  during the First International Exposition of Modern Decorative Arts in Turin, in 1902.

Poster for the First International Exposition of Modern Decorative Arts. Turin.
Poster for the First International Exposition of Modern Decorative Arts. Turin.

Image source: https://www.gounesco.com/the-era-of-peace-and-plenty-belle-epoque/

How it All Started

The birth of this style was connected with Milan in the North of Italy where thermost important office of this firm was located.  After the International Exhibition in Turin in 1902 “ The Liberty Style Architecture” became a symbol of what will be named the Italian Art Nouveau. It was born in contrast with mass production and the standardization of goods, made with poor quality materials. The movement preferred craftsmanship and the artists felt the need to express their creativity.


An example of balcony in Turin. This building is known as Casa Tasca.
An example of balcony in Turin. This building is known as Casa Tasca.

Image source: https://www.thegaplifediaries.com/turin-art-nouveau/

This Style Features

The most important characteristics of Italian Art Nouveau were:

  • Ornamental Style;
  • Sinuous and continuous lines;
  • Movement;
  • Aesthetic sophistication;
  • Attention to details;

In architecture and design, the materials employed were glass and wrought iron, in jewelry semiprecious stones and opals were included in paintings  upon finished surfaces.

 Castiglioni Palace. Milan.
Castiglioni Palace, Milan.

Image source: https://www.locationamilano.it/location-946-milano.html

The Most Important Artists

Liberty Style in Italy developed thanks to many important figures as Giuseppe Sommaruga, Giuseppe Cominetti, Benvenuto Benvenuti, Ernesto Basile, Carlo Bugatti. Two of them marked the passage to the new art in a distinctive way.

Ernesto Basile, portrait.
Ernesto Basile, portrait.

Ernesto Basile was a famous Sicilian architect, he was one of the main designers of the Liberty Style. His elegantly basic Art Nouveau architecture is perhaps best represented by the Villino Florio and the Utveggio House in Palermo. He also designed the Villino Basile and the Villino Fassini, both in Palermo. One of his best known projects was his extension to Bernini’s Montecitorio Palace in Rome, in an evident Renaissance style. After the 1914–18 war his architecture changed to more Classical elements.

Image source: https://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ernesto_Basile

Villino Florio, Palermo.
Villino Florio, Palermo.

Image source: https://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/Villino_Florio#/media/File:Villino_Florio.jpg

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Carlo Bugatti, portrait.

Carlo Bugatti was one of Italy’s most important and disruptive designers. Despite falling out of fashion for a little time, his work has recently recalled thanks to a strong revival. Typical of the first phase of his style, he used heavy, ebonised wood adorned with copper, brass, ivory, or other precious materials decorated with animal or insect patterns. Influenced by Moorish, Japanese and primitive art, his pieces of furniture, were unique, even theatrical.

Image source: http://www.arteliberty.it/arte_bugatti.html

A side table by Carlo Bugatti.
A side table by Carlo Bugatti.

Image source: https://www.lempertz.com/en/catalogues/lot/1086-2/652-an-inlaid-side-table-by-carlo-bugatti.html

Info source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liberty_style

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