Sex and Sensibility: The Allure of Art Nouveau


Series 1 - Episode 1 Paris



Born in bohemian Montmartre in the twilight of the 19th century, where courtesans cavorted and Baudelaire penned poems lauding the dark side of human nature, Art Nouveau took Paris by storm.

Stephen Smith has a twinkle in his eye as he investigates, marvelling at the sumptuous Métro stations, racy interior design and the poster by a struggling artist that accidentally started the whole movement. We also learn about glass experimenter Emile Gallé who enchanted high society, only to be ostracised for his stand during the Dreyfus affair. You can’t blame Smith for looking like a schoolboy stumbling upon the top shelf: this is art history at its most risqué.


Stephen Smith presents a history of the early 20th-century art and design movement, beginning by exploring how it changed the face of Paris. He examines pieces of jewellery created by Rene Lalique, analyses Alphonse Mucha's posters of actress Sarah Bernhardt and visits locations that epitomise the art nouveau style, including Maxim's restaurant. He also discusses why creative thinkers including architect Hector Guimard and glass-maker Emile Galle believed their work could inspire social change.

Cast & Crew

Presenter Stephen Smith
Executive Producer Franny Moyle
Series Director Mary Downes
Series Producer Mary Downes
Documentary Arts