Art Deco was an international design and art movement in the 1920s and ’30s. Influenced by sources as varied as the Bauhaus School in Germany, the Cubist paintings of Georges Braques and Pablo Picasso, Mayan ruins in the Yucatan, and the discovery of King Tut’s tomb, the style was a rejection of the organic, naturalistic sensibility of Art Nouveau.
Art Deco was a machine-made aesthetic for a fast-paced industrial age, using symmetry and line to bring order to the natural world and suggest movement in objects as inert as chairs and bookends. Even the cinema echoed and inspired the trend, most famously in Fritz Lang’s 1927 vision of dystopia, Metropolis.
For a time, no object escaped the streamline touch of Art Deco. Frank Lloyd Wright filled his geometric buildings with equally angular lamps, tables, and stained-glass windows. Indeed, Art Deco architecture is perhaps the most enduring legacy of the style.
The 1930 Chrysler Building, an Art Deco masterpiece, is one of the most famous landmarks in Manhattan; the 1937 Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco is another Art Deco triumph, in this case of both design and engineering. Then there’s Ocean Drive in the South Beach section of Miami, home to some 800 preserved Art Deco structures. Inside all those Art Deco buildings was furniture by the likes of Emile-Jacques Ruhlmann, who equipped his armchairs with assertive, mesa-flat armrests. Elsewhere in the house, a host of decorative and functional objects set an elegant tone.
Because most Art Deco objects were mass-produced, a great many survive today, making them terrific and often surprisingly affordable collectibles. Industrial designers Raymond Loewy and Henry Dreyfus created many functional objects (such as clocks, radios, and telephones) with the classic Art Deco angular, streamlined look. Statuettes and figurines, frequently of female nudes, were produced in plastic, bronze, and ceramic. Glass objects — from vases to perfume bottles — were also popular, with René Lalique, Antonin Daum, Henri Navarre, and Maurice Marinot among the most prized practitioners.
Porcelain figurines created for Robj, Rosenthal, and Lenci often depicted characters and caricatures dressed in the fabrics of the day, with Art Deco costume jewelry on their necks and Art Deco watches on their wrists. By the bed would be a bronze and mahogany clock, in the dining room a china service emblazoned with geometric patterns, and in the living room silver and enamel cigarette cases leaning against ashtrays made of Bakelite.
Art Deco had a great ride, but by 1939 the movement had run its course, giving way to World War II and what we now know as the Mid-Century Modern style (which made even the simple flourishes of Art Deco look baroque). A 1966 exhibition in Paris at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs reminded the world why Art Deco, previously called modernism, had been so popular in its day. Today, it may be even more so.
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House of the Week | Art deco duplex in Brightwood for $599KWashington Post (blog), February 27th
Described in a 1935 Washington Post Real Estate section article as “Homes Modern” and “homes ahead of their times,” semi-detached duplexes along upper 14th Street in the Brightwood neighborhood of Northwest Washington were revolutionary in that era: ...Read more
Living Large in Tiny Spaces: Art Deco EditionCurbed National, February 26th
Built by the Pew family in 1929, The Icon, housed at 1616 Walnut Street remains one of Philadelphia's finest examples of Art Deco design. The lobby is full of original historic details (the front window, light fixtures, elevator caps, and aluminum...Read more
Inside Miranda Levy's Art Deco Shorewood apartmentMilwaukee Journal Sentinel, February 26th
“Project Runway” star Miranda Levy and fiancé Michael Adler love the charm of their of Art Deco apartment building in Shorewood. Prev 1 2 Next · © 2015, Journal Sentinel Inc. All rights reserved. From around the web and the Journal SentinelFrom The Web...Read more
For riverfront art-deco gem, a Hyatt hotel, high-end housingTwinCities.com-Pioneer Press, February 25th
A view of the former post office building overlooking the Mississippi River in downtown St. Paul on Wednesday, Feb. 25, 2015. Hyatt plans to announce a new hotel in the space, and there will also be apartments and other amenities. (Pioneer Press: Ben ...Read more
Undetected Water Break May Signal End for Historic Art Deco SkyscraperPatch.com, February 25th
After a water main broke on the ninth floor, more than 2 million gallons of water flooded four of the 38 flours of the Art Deco building named after Detroit flour king David Stott, WDIV-TV reports. That's enough water to fill two Olympic-sized swimming...Read more
Broadway Art Deco Building to Be RevivedLA Downtown News Online, February 25th
It plans to transform the 1930s Art Deco-style building, which has been vacant for years, into creative office space. “We want to return it to an art piece rather than a sore thumb on the street,” said Richard Shamooilian, a partner at King's Arch. “We...Read more
A flapping good time at Napier's Art Deco WeekendTVNZ, February 21st
This weekend Napier stepped back into the time of flappers and the Charleston with its popular Art Deco celebration. Attracting crowds from all around New Zealand and overseas, more than 200 events over five days made the entertainment line-up. With...Read more
10 Great Art Deco Cities You Might Not Know AboutCondé Nast Traveler, February 20th
The coastal town of Napier, New Zealand, is in the throes of its annual Tremains Art Deco Weekend, "celebrating the hope and optimism of the '20s and '30s." The Art Deco design style ushered in a modern era of experimentation—all sharp angles and ...Read more