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...
Key terms for Art Deco:
Bakelite: One of several patented early plastic resins (along with Plaskon, Beetle, Catalin, etc.) popular in the 1920s and 30s, which are associated with Art Deco style objects. Invented by Leo Baekeland.
Streamlining: In an effort to make everything from radios to railroad trains look modern, designers tried for a streamlined look, which became ubiquitous during the heyday of Art Deco.
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What is the history of the art deco building at 727 Carondelet St.?bestofneworleans.com, September 15th
The International High School of New Orleans on Carondelet Street was built in 1937 in the then-popular art deco style. Today it houses a charter school, as well as Bard Early College. Hey Blake,. What is the history of the art deco building at 727...Read more
a 'Traviata' decked out in Art DecoOCRegister, September 14th
Marta Domingo (Plácido is her husband) is credited with the production, which updates the opera to the art deco era for no more reason that I can find than to give it a fresh look. The production was first seen here in 2006; this is its first revival...Read more
At the Art Deco Festival, Talking About the Joy of ShoesLA Weekly, September 12th
On a blazing hot summer afternoon, designer Kimberly Manning Aker and ex-architect Alice Jurow are standing at a podium in one of the plush ballrooms on board the Queen Mary in Long Beach, presenting a winding, charming and not-at-all exhaustive ...Read more
Art deco fan eyes Elgin Tower Building for apartmentsChicago Daily Herald, September 12th
A Chicago developer with a passion for art deco is interested in buying and building apartments in the iconic Elgin Tower Building. Richard Souyoul, president of Souyoul Properties, said the company has entered into an agreement to buy the building at...Read more
Art Deco Walking Tours offer up-close looks at historic buildingsPalm Beach Post, September 11th
31, that gives walkers an introduction to the Art Deco, Mediterranean Revival and Miami Modern (MiMo) styles within the Miami Beach Architectural Historic District. See exteriors of hotels, restaurants and other commercial structures, and a number of...Read more
Style moderne: What is French Art Deco?Financial Times, September 10th
What is Art Deco? The early 20th-century impulse to create “modern” design – objects and environments suited to a fast-paced industrialised world – led to the development of countless expressions, all of which fall under the rubric of Art Deco. But...Read more
Stylin': Antique jewelry shows to include art deco piecesNews & Observer, September 9th
The Raleigh shows will include art deco pieces from the 1920s to 1940s, along with pieces from the 1960s to 1980s, ranging in price from $50 to $50,000. For more information, visit baileybox.com. • Galatea Boutique will have new boots and more from...Read more
Valencia Street with an Art Deco twistMynextfone, September 6th
One fresh example is on a Valencia Street block long shadowed by the Central Freeway, an overscale Art Deco showcase of scallops and scrolls and floral patterns. Built by the Independent Order of Foresters, a Baha'i temple since the 1970s, the...Read more