Many artists favour either the aesthetically pleasing or the utilitarian.
Once in a while you will come across one who brings both together and will witness Art Nouveau, a decorative-art movement which began to take shape in the 1880s.

Most successfully practised in the decorative arts such as furniture, jewellery and book design, the style is richly ornamental and asymmetrical.

One of Art Nouveau's outstanding designers and founders was Henry Van de Velde, a Belgian artist whose art is currently on display in Abu Dhabi.

A reminder of the roots

In cooperation with Zayed University in Abu Dhabi and the American University in Sharjah, the Belgian Embassy has brought the works of Art Nouveau master Henry Van de Velde to the capital.

In an age where art has hundreds of different meanings, shapes and forms, Van de Velde's masterpieces are a reminder of where Art Nouveau took its roots.

"We are pleased to host this exhibition especially for this architect and artist who was known as one of the first people who created the new art movement in Europe," said Dr Michael Rodriguez, Assistant Professor in the Arts and Design Department at Zayed University.

Formative years

A Belgian architect, painter and interior designer, Van de Velde was born in 1863 in Antwerp, Belgium.

After studying painting in his native country and later in Paris, Van de Velde abandoned the art form, preferring to work for the linkage of the aesthetic with the practical and utilitarian.

From the union of both came the creation of a designer.

"This great architect was not an ordinary artist as he was known for his strong sense, especially in the Renaissance age," explained Dr Fateh Rifki, Dean of the School of Architecture and Design at the American University of Sharjah.

Utopian idea

Van de Velde adhered to the Utopian idea that architects could reform society through design.

He believed that "ugliness corrupts not only the eyes, but also the heart and mind".

By the time he died in 1957, Van de Velde had developed a highly detailed style and by using concrete as an expressive element, he created ornamental designs and ornate interiors which directly influenced the Art Nouveau movement.

The exhibition is being held until Saturday at the Zayed University Abu Dhabi Campus.

It includes 46 photographs and paintings by the famous artist.