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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Art deco heaven: Great Gatsby-inspired hotelsMSN NZ News, May 22nd
Art deco heaven: Great Gatsby-inspired hotels. Loading slideshow... Casa Margot, Mendoza, Argentina; La Residence Hue, Hue, Vietnam; Chateau Marmont, Los Angeles, US; Hotel St Augustine, Miami, US; Moreno Hotel, Buenos Aires, Argentina; The...Read more
The First Art Newspaper on the NetArt Daily, May 22nd
Headlining the sale is Lot 1092, a magnificent art deco ruby and diamond necklace, by Cartier, circa 1925, with an estimate of HK$3,000,000 – 4,000,000. Featuring approximately 20.00ct of rubies and 30.00ct of diamonds, the necklace's linear outline...Read more
1929 Rand Tower sports art-deco elements — and an aviation themeMinnPost.com, May 22nd
It wasn't necessarily the urge to recreate that sensation that brought me up into the skyways; I just wanted to explore some of the art deco fixtures in the Rand Tower. The front doors were locked, but the skyway entrance was open. The lobby and the...Read more
Art deco exploredDaily Echo, May 22nd
THERE'S a chance to find out more about Southampton's art deco buildings with a tour of the Civic Centre and a talk on stylish cinemas, industrial buildings and houses. The talk by Southampton City Council's art deco manager Dr Andy Russell is at 11am...Read more
'Art Deco Automobiles' exhibit opens June 14Columbia Daily Herald, May 19th
An eclectic, machine-inspired decorative style that thrived between the two World Wars, Art Deco combined craft motifs with industrial materials and lavish embellishments. The movement began in Paris in the early 1920s and was propelled to prominence...Read more
Echoes of Deco: 'Gatsby' film renews interest in art deco periodChattanooga Times Free Press, May 17th
Hickey-Freeman Building: This architectural beauty at 809 Market St. once housed Hardie & Caudle men's clothing store and is the new home of Blacksmith's Bistro. Its exterior is art deco in the design of the windows and patterned tiles inset in the...Read more
London's best art deco buildingsTelegraph.co.uk, May 13th
In 1933, a wealthy American couple named Stephen and Virginia Courtauld acquired Eltham Palace, the ruined childhood home of Henry VIII. They set about restoring the remaining parts of the palace and created an elaborate home with sumptuous art deco...Read more
Greenbelt Theatre to Receive $75000 to Repair Art Deco LobbyDCist.com, May 13th
The Greenbelt Theatre, in Prince George's County, will get $75,000 to fix up its once-ornate art deco lobby, which has been in scrappy condition for some time now. And while the $75,000 won't pay for the entire renovation, it will account for a...Read more