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Electric Guitars
Nouveau Series Book Cover
You Tube Video

Art of Music Instruments and Vienese artist/luthier Michael Spalt completed the Nouveau Series Guitars in 2010 a collection of thirteen of the most exotic and artful electric guitars in the history of the instrument. Upon completion the instruments went on display at the musical instrument museum in San Diego, California during autumn 2010 through winter 2011.

Original art by Louis Comfort Tiffany (Tiffany art glass), Henri Toulouse-Lautrec, Alphonse Mucha, Lucien Pissaro, Emile Galle', and other historically significant artists of the Art Nouveau period have been incorporated into Spalt's unique collaged resin-topped bodies. In a special arrangement with Klein Acoustic Guitars (noted pioneering luthier Steve Klein) the bodies are shaped as Klein's unique acoustic guitar body silhouette, joined to handmade rosewood necks.

In addition to the original Art Nouveau art, the collaged resin-topped bodies, Klein's eloquent body silhouette, and the exotic rosewood necks, the instruments feature custom-to-this series Fralin pickups with specially coloured bone tops, Klein acoustic-styled bridges, handmade tuner buttons, and a variety of other subtle thematically consistent aesthetic touches.

Years of design, as well as careful and costly art selection precede the release of The Nouveau Series, enhancing its stature as one of the rarest and most artful collections of electric guitars ever offered.

Artist History and Philosophy

Born and raised in Austria, Spalt grew up around a plethora of Nouveau art, Vienna being one of the hotbeds of the Nouveau period evidenced by many of the buildings' facades, as well as furniture and decor. His father was a professor for architecture and interior design and the Dean at the Academy of Applied Arts in Vienna - a school where many of the artists working during the Nouveau period had studied and taught.

Spalt worked in various capacities in the film industry before finally settling on screenwriting as his main occupation. Experiencing the labours of screenwriting as an agonizingly abstract process, he found he needed something he could do with his hands - a tangible craft to balance the excessively cerebral nature of the writing. So by the late 1980s he returned to an early fascination with guitars and started building them in his garage, literally as a form of therapy. His first instruments were rather traditional - and the process invited him to pursue his own avenues. Having worked in special effects and set design and building, his experiences of working with various materials and processes left their mark and informed his future. In his early years he had been instilled with a great respect for craftsmanship and the importance of understanding materials - a foundation that enabled him to appreciate their relationships and various textures. As experience refined his skills, he continued to engage them in unique and sensitive ways.

Having moved to Los Angeles, the location proved fortuitous as it afforded Spalt access to a great number of fine traditional guitars, many of which would become in need of repair, allowing for experiences that taught him a great deal about lutherie as he began to refine the art and craft of his own instruments and their ever-evolving styles.

History and Evolution of The Nouveau Series

Paul explains the genesis of the Nouveau series:
"I had long been a fan of Steve Klein's guitars, (I wrote a book about Klein - "Art That Sings", Doctorow Communications, 2003), and when Steve and I co-curated an exhibit of guitars for the Sonoma Valley Museum of Art in 2001, I learned of Michael Spalt's guitars. Both Steve and I thought his designs were at once artful and amazing. I then had the notion to see if the design of Steve's smaller-bodied acoustic could generalize to an electric guitar, and thought it would unite beautifully with Michael's artistry. I took an original Klein neck and had Michael make a body comprised of parts from Klein's shop from the past thirty years collaged in his unique resin-topped style. The instrument turned out beautifully and we featured it in the book about Steve (p. 77 in the Klein book).

Then, while studying the history of Tiffany stained glass I came across an interesting-to-me anecdote about how Siegfried Bing (early champion of Art Nouveau in France and owner of Maison del l'Art Nouveu - the gallery that featured artists that worked in the then-new style preceding the turn of the 20th century) had commissioned Louis Comfort Tiffany (originator of Tiffany stained glass) to produce ten windows to designs by nine of France's leading artists including Toulouse-Lautrec and Pierre Bonnard.

I thought it might be interesting to do something similar by wedding original Art Nouveau art with the medium of Michael Spalt's technique utilizing the shape of Klein's acoustic guitars. With the instrument I'd commissioned as a prototype, the concept for The Nouveau Series was born.

I spent years collecting original Art Nouveau art culled from the U.S. and abroad, mindful of what would work in the instrument and how the series would stand as a coherent collection. After seeing the completed instruments, I think it worked."

 
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