Like the earlier Arts and Crafts Movement, as well as the curvilinear style of design known as Art Nouveau, Art Deco embraced all types of art, from fine arts to custom furniture.
Smooth lines, geometric shapes, streamlined forms and bright, sometimes garish colors characterized the art deco style, which above all reflected modern technology. Art Deco was initially a luxury style and a reaction against the austerity from World War I. It utilized costly materials like silver, crystal, ivory, jade and lacquer. After the Great Depression of the early 1930s, Art Deco designers began using less expensive and mass-produced materials like chrome and plastics, catering to an escalating middle class taste for a style that was elegant and glamorous.
The Origins of Art Deco
The term “Art Deco” comes from the 1925 Exposition Internationale des Arts Decoratifs Industriels et Modernes that was held in Paris. The art show was organized by a team of French artists known as, La Societe des Artistes Decorateurs (Aociety of Decorator Artists), led by its founders Hector Guimard, Paul Follot, Raoul Lachenal, Maurice Dufrene, Eugene Grasset, and Emile Decour, some of whom were also involved in Art Nouveau.
Art Deco actually comes from several of the major art styles of the early 20th century. These formative influences include the unifying approach of Art Nouveau, the geometric forms of Cubism, and the machine-style forms of Constructivism and Futurism. Art Deco’s intense colors may be derived from Parisian Fauvism. Art Deco also borrowed from Egyptian and Aztec art, as well as from Classical Antiquity.
The Art Deco style, adopted by architects and designers around the world, spanned the "Roaring Twenties", the Great Depression, and the years leading up to World War II. It started declining in popularity during the late 30s and early 40s, when it began to be seen as too gaudy for wartime solemnity. The first resurgence of interest in Art Deco occurred in the 1960s and coincided with the movement's impact on Pop Art. It became popular again in the 1980s, due to growing interest in the graphic arts.
Characteristics & Materials
Utilizing new building materials that contrasted sharply with the fluid motifs of Art Nouveau, Art Deco architecture represented the progress of science, and the rise of commerce and technology. This made Art Deco design especially appropriate for the interiors of cinemas, ocean liners, and the architecture of train stations. It survived the Great Depression due to the practicality and simplicity of its design.
The structure of Art Deco is founded on mathematical geometric shapes that were established by Greco-Roman Classicism, the faceted architectural forms of Babylon, Assyria, Ancient Egypt, and Aztec Mexico, and Machine Age streamline designs from aviation and skyscrapers. Art Deco designs are specifically characterized by zigzagged, trapezoidal, and triangular shapes, chevron patterns, stepped forms, and sweeping curves. Sunburst motifs have also been widely used and are visible at the Radio City Music Hall auditorium, and the spire of the Chrysler Building (1928-30) in New York.
Art Deco introduced exotic finishes like sharkskin and goatskin, while utilizing high quality Art Nouveau materials such as molded glass, horn, and ivory. Materials such as stainless steel, inlaid wood, natural quartz and semi precious stones have also been used in Art Deco furniture.
In the Modern world, Art Deco can be seen in architecture, interior design, poster art, graphic design, jewelry, fashion and furniture design. In architecture, the Art Deco look signaled a return to the simplicity and symmetry of Neoclassicism, but without its classical regularity. Architects and artists in countries as diverse as Great Britain, Spain, Cuba, Indonesia, the Philippines, Argentina, Romania, Australia, New Zealand, India, Brazil and Colombia have enthusiastically adopted Art Deco architectural designs. This serves as a testament to the style's lasting monumentality.