Mystical feminine figures, natural landscapes populated by mythical creatures, floral ornaments and warm colour hues - the design vocabulary of Art Nouveau invites us to immerse ourselves in other realities for a while. In the large Goddesses of Art Nouveau special exhibition, which is coming into being in cooperation with the Allard Pierson Amsterdam and the Braunschweigisches Landesmuseum, visitors are transported into a world of art.

Yet, a closer look reveals that Art Nouveau has many more facets on offer. In its multiplicity, it mirrors the turbulent times of its originating period. Industrialisation has a massive impact on both society and the environment. Nationalism is advancing in numerous European countries. New forms of consumer and entertainment culture are being established. Scientific findings as well as philosophical and religious approaches are unhinging the hitherto established conception of man. New, radical lifestyles arise. The belief in advancement is colliding with cultural pessimism. In this time of profound change, Art Nouveau turns against what is considered traditional and develops a completely new design vocabulary. Numerous artists allegorically expressed their feelings and attitudes through female figures. Whether in the form of flawless goddesses of nature or sensually dark femmes fatales: images of naked bodies, flowing robes and luxuriant hair are present in both painting and sculpture, as well as in graphic art and jewellery. Around the turn of the century, the true living conditions of many women were often characterised by repression and their realities were hardly ever reflected in the artistic representations despite the fact that it was precisely at this time that international, organised and active resistance was being formed for the very first time in history.

Women demand education and employment, social participation, and a say in politics. Germany's first girls' grammar school is opened in Karlsruhe in 1893. The first female students enrol at the universities of Freiburg and Heidelberg. Despite challenging conditions, women take the risk of becoming self-employed, freelance artists. They literally liberate themselves from old corsets, design reform dresses that allow more freedom of motion, and they become active in sports. Dancers like Loïe Fuller and theatre actresses such as Sarah Bernhardt appear on the stages of European metropolises, where they captivate audiences and acquire the status of living icons, not least thanks to the poster art of well-known Art Nouveau artists.

The Goddesses of Art Nouveau special exhibition takes a closer look at all these topics. The extensive collections of the three museums are further enriched by loans from international Art Nouveau collections such as the Königlichen Museen in Brussels. Among these loans are unique objects by well-known Art Nouveau artists such as Gustav Klimt, Franz von Stuck, René Lalique, Jan Toorop, and Aubrey Beardsley, from whom a to date unknown pen drawing of a Greek goddess of vengeance, one of the Erinnyes, will be presented to the public for the first time. Using large-format paintings, artistic bronze figures, exquisite gold jewellery, and high-quality ceramics, in addition to the accompanying socio-historical trail, the exhibition presents the ambivalences of an eventful time and spans an arc to the present because many of the socio-political questions of that time are once again highly topical today.

Note: Self-guided tours are not possible in our special exhibitions. If you would like a guided tour, please contact our booking service:

Tip: Visit also our exquisite Art Nouveau collection in the museum at the market.
Admission is free of charge.


You can use our audio guide with your own smartphone via the museum's WLAN (available in German, English, French and especially for children, costs: 4 Euros); you will receive access on site. To do this, call up the corresponding website during your visit, which is also possible via QR code. Afterwards, you can also use the audio guide offline. Please bring your own headphones!  We have a limited number of rental devices available for those who do not use a smartphone.

Goddesses of Art Nouveau

Special Exhibition
Dec 18, 2021– September 11, 2022
Karlsruhe Palace



KTG Karlsruhe Tourismus GmbH

Travel package by our partner KTG

Goddesses of Art Nouveau

Alfons Mucha, bust La Nature
Cover of the magazine Jugend
Koloman Moser, cover for the magazine Ver sacrum
Cover of the magazine Jugend
Alfons Mucha (design), cycle Les fleurs
Hans Christiansen, Mermaid