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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Art deco Cadillac collection kept in replica 1930s ballroomDriving, April 22nd
The inside of the Fleetwood Auto Salon was modelled after the same art deco-style Waldorf Astoria ballroom that was host to many of his cars when they were brand new and being unveiled for the first time. How else would you display such beautiful cars?...Read more
Rent-a-desk shared offices to open in Christchurch art deco buildingStuff.co.nz, April 21st
In Manchester St, damaged Art Deco building Kensington House is being repaired and revamped for a mixture of users. Among its upstairs occupants will be The Collect, a flexible and co-operative workspace which its founder says will be a first for the city...Read more
The Mullin Museum and its Art Deco Tribute to BugattiHCPLive, April 21st
The question automobile journalists have to ask themselves when they discover a jewel of a car museum like the Mullin is, How much detail can non-car enthusiasts endure? How much technical information can readers suffer? And would car buffs want even ...Read more
'Yamana Ayao and Art Deco: Creating the Shiseido Style'The Japan Times, April 21st
Ayao Yamana (1897-1980), a top illustrator and designer for the cosmetics manufacturer Shiseido Co., was strongly influenced by French Art Deco. His resulting modern illustrations became popular with women during the 1920s and are still admired today...Read more
Hastings art deco beauty partially up for saleThe Dominion Post, April 20th
One of the few art deco buildings to survive the 1931 Hawke's Bay earthquake is looking for new owners for its ground floor. The Hawkes Bay Farmers Co-Op building on the corner of Hasting's central Market and Queen Sts was built two years before the ...Read more
Big Art Deco Clock Returns To Golden Gate BridgeCBS Local, April 13th
SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — The Art Deco clock on the Golden Gate Bridge toll plaza was re-installed this past weekend after a roughly eight-month absence, but it will take a few more weeks before its hands start moving again. In fact, the hands are...Read more
Art Deco historian, author Ric Emmett dies at 73Miami Herald, April 10th
ART DECO EXPERT: Ric Emmett was considered a leading authority on American Art Deco furniture. He and his wife, Iza Emmett, operated the Coral Gables gallery, Modernism, from 1988 to 2004 and Emmett self-published “American Art Deco Furniture' in ...Read more
Drink of The week: The Art DeCo at Molecule EffectWestword, April 7th
“We try to take 'locally-sourced' to the extreme,” says Mark Landman, who opened Molecule Effect with partner Megan Rodgers in late 2014. “When we think of ingredients for anything, we start right here and we start to go outward from there...Read more