If this is the matured fruit of the Art Nouveau, heaven defend our country from the sowing of that seed here!
—A. D. F. Hamlin, 1902
Compared to many earlier styles, the French Art Nouveau—or “New Art”—was less reliant on historic or classical ornament. Taking inspiration from nature, designers like Eugène Gaillard created furniture with elongated curves and rounded edges that often resembled old-growth trees, climbing vines, or waves in the water. They often incorporated leather upholstery tooled with additional abstract ornament as seen in this chair. While Europeans generally praised these creative designs, many American critics found Art Nouveau to be too idiosyncratic and impractical. Architectural historian A. D. F. Hamlin regarded Gaillard’s furniture as “capricious, eccentric, and obviously impossible to harmonize with any room.” Hamlin preferred the Beaux Arts style, which drew on its own strange amalgam of Classical, Baroque, and Rococo architectural precedent. Hamlin’s hope that the French “seed” would not be “sown” in American soil came true. American designers in general bypassed the Art Nouveau and picked up Modernist and Arts and Crafts styles instead.