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.


Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

Art Deco 1910-1939

Art Deco 1910-1939

This Victoria and Albert Museum has a terrific collection of Art Deco objects. On the VAM's website, you can learn … [read review or visit site]

Decopix

Decopix

Randy Juster's survey of Art Deco imagery and reference on all things Deco. Includes pages on murals, houses, gov… [read review or visit site]

Modernism

Modernism

This archived overview produced by the Minneapolis Institute of Arts offers thumbnail sketches of the design moveme… [read review or visit site]



Most watched eBay auctions    

Vintage Detrola Big Dial Art Deco Radio With Bent Wood Cabinet * Gorgeous, WorksVintage Old Rca 74-b Art Deco Mid Century Antique Radio Studio Ribbon MicrophoneVintage French Art Deco Paste Glass 1.5” Wide Silver Tone 86g BraceletRare Antique Early 20thc, Art Deco Cast Iron Cat Boot Scrape, No Reserve!Vintage Art Deco Czech Glass Lapis Blue Sautoir Dangle Flapper NecklaceVintage 1940s Art Deco All American Patriotic Fada Antique Catalin Colors RadioAntique 1940's Space Saver Art Deco Era Western Electric Old Rotary Wall PhoneVintage 10" X 12" Hand Embroidered / Crewel Work Art Deco Garden Picture PanelVintage Art Deco Peacock Teal Blue Glass Open Back Openback Crystal NecklaceVintage General Electric Art Deco Old Swirled Catalin Colors Antique Tube RadioFine Sterling Silver Art Deco And Moonstone Bracelet Antique 1930 Art Deco Alabaster & Spelter, Pirate Bookends & Lamp Original PaintOriginal Art Deco French Figural Bone & Marble Day Mantel Clock - Dancing LadyOutstanding Art Deco Box With Gazelle: Attributed HagenauerAntique Art Deco 1937 1938 Zenith 5 S 218 Cube Tube Wood A.m. Radio Parts RepairAntique Vintage Art Deco 14k Gold Emerald Aquamarine Akoya Pearl Slider BraceletVintage 1940s Dewald Antique Art Deco Old Yellow Catalin Bakelite Clock Radio Collection Lot 5 X Vintage Antique Handbags Purse Snake Skin Bead Silk Art DecoRare Antique Art Deco Enamel Compact With Winter Bird Scene Vintage Art Deco Sterling Silver Guilloche Enamel Locket Holder PinVintage Art Deco Rhodium Plate Filigree Emerald Green Crystal Pendant NecklaceVintage Signed Art Deco Czech Glass Amethyst Geometric NecklaceArt Deco Era Trifari Jelly Belly Rhinestone Owl Fur Clip Pin - Alfred PhilippeFine 9ct / 9k 375 Gold Art Deco And Garnet Bracelet Fine Art Deco 9ct Gold Garnet White Sapphire Cluster Pendant 9k 375Old Antique Wood Aetna Vintage Tube Radio - Restored Working Art Deco Tombstone Vtg Art Deco Sterling Silver Glass Onyx Chrysoprase Intaglio Dangle NecklaceSigned Vintage Lalique French Green Color Art Glass Deco Lizard Figurine Nr DtpBendix Bakelite Deco Radio Pristine Out Of Box Condition Original M-526 Ca-1946!Vtg Art Deco Bezel Set Open Back Openback Dangle Blue Glass Crystal NecklaceVintage Signed Czech Art Deco Glass Peking Molded Bird BraceletRare Art Deco Hallmarked Swedish Silver Cigarette Case With Concealed Pencil.1920s Art Deco Era Mesh Purse With Enameled Turquoise + Gold ExteriorVintage Art Deco Peking Glass Enamel Pendant NecklaceAntique Vintage Art Deco Retro 10k Gold Emerald Cut Aquamarine Tennis Bracelet!Old Antique Wood Philco Vintage Tube Radio -restored Working Art Deco Table Top Vintage 1940s Emerson Antique Art Deco Old Catalin Bakelite Radio Mid Century Vintage Art Deco Czech Glass Emerald Green Pendant NecklaceVintage 1930s Airline Machine Age Art Deco " Telephone Dial" Old Antique RadioEverite Carved Deco English Mantle Clock Circa 1910 With Westminister ChimesOriginal Art Deco Chrome Table Lamp & Stepped Glass ShadeVintage Art Nouveau Deco Sterling Repousse Puffy Heart Charms Charm Bracelet !!Fabulous Little Miniature French Solid Silver Art Deco Pocket Watch G.s JewelledVintage Art Deco Jewellery Beautiful Nodding Bell Flowers Marcasite Brooch PinVintage Art Deco Signed Danecraft Sterling Silver Leaf BraceletVintage Longines Men's Wrist Watch Art Deco Swiss Men Silver Mens Luxury WatchesAntique Art Deco Rhodium Plate Amber Crystal Rhinestone Pendant NecklaceLarge 12" R Lalique France Opalescent Crystal Coquilles Shells Bowl Art DecoPair Vintage Art Deco 1930s Amber Catalin Bakelite CandlesticksAntique Vintage Deco 18k Gold Chinese Red Jade Jadeite Hinged Bangle Bracelet!Antique Vintage Art Deco Retro 18k Yellow Gold Amethyst Drop Dangle Earrings!Superb Sterling Silver Art Deco Cigarette Box By A.wilcox Birmingham 1936Rare Art Deco Cussons Mists Of The Moon Powder Compact Circa 1930Vintage Art Deco Mcclelland Barclay Emerald Green Rhinestone Gold Mesh Bracelet Signed Rene R Lalique French Art Deco Turquoise Blue Glass Poisson Fish Seal DtpVintage Art Nouveau Deco Pink & White Flower Enamel Mesh Purse Hand BagBeautiful Vintage Art Deco Italian Murano Millefiori Glass Bead NecklaceOriginal Art Deco Chrome & Glass Cake Stand Solid Silver Barker Brothers Art Deco Guilloche Enamel Compact 1935 BirminghamOriginal Art Deco Catalin Amber Bakelite Table Lamp 1930's