Hi folks, welcome back to our journey in the history of modern art.

Today we’ll be reviewing Art Deco!

Art Deco or Deco, is an influential visual arts design style which first appeared in France during the 1920s, flourished internationally during the 30s and 40s, then waned in the post-World War II era. It is an eclectic style that combines traditional craft motifs with Machine Age imagery and materials. The style is often characterized by rich colors, bold geometric shapes and lavish ornamentation.

U.S. Works Progress Administration poster, John Wagner, artist, ca. 1940

U.S. Works Progress Administration poster, John Wagner, artist, ca. 1940

Deco emerged from the Interwar period when rapid industrialization was transforming culture. One of its major attributes is an embrace of technology. This distinguishes Deco from the organic motifs favored by its predecessor Art Nouveau.

Historian Bevis Hillier defined Art Deco as “an assertively modern style…[that] ran to symmetry rather than asymmetry, and to the rectilinear rather than the curvilinear; it responded to the demands of the machine and of new material…[and] the requirements of mass production.”

During its heyday Art Deco represented luxury, glamour, exuberance, and faith in social and technological progress.

The first use of the term Art Deco has been attributed to architect Le Corbusier who penned a series of articles in his journal L’Esprit nouveau under the headline 1925 Expo: Arts Déco. He was referring to the 1925 Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes (International Exposition of Modern Decorative and Industrial Arts).

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The term was used more generally in 1966 when a French exhibition celebrating the 1925 event was held under the title Les Années 25: Art Déco/Bauhaus/Stijl/Esprit Nouveau. Here the phrase was used to distinguish French decorative crafts of the Belle Epoque from those of later periods.

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The term ‘Art Deco’ has since been applied to a wide variety of works produced during the Interwar period (L’Entre Deux Guerres), and even to those of the Bauhaus in Germany. However Art Deco originated in France. It has been argued that the term should be applied to French works and those produced in countries directly influenced by France.

Art Deco gained currency as a broadly applied stylistic label in 1968 when historian Bevis Hillier published the first book on the subject: Art Deco of the 20s and 30s. Hillier noted that the term was already being used by art dealers and cites The Times (2 November 1966) and an essay on Les Arts Déco in Elle magazine (November 1967) as examples of prior usage.

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Rhythm by Henryk Kuna in Skaryszewski Park, Warsaw, Poland, 1925

Rhythm by Henryk Kuna in Skaryszewski Park, Warsaw, Poland, 1925

In 1971 Hillier organized an exhibition at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts then published a book about it: The World of Art Deco.

Deco was heavily influenced by pre-modern art from around the world, and observable at the Musée du Louvre, Musée de l’Homme and the Musée national des Arts d’Afrique et d’Océanie. During the 1920s affordable travel permitted in situ exposure to other cultures. There was also popular interest in archeology due to excavations at Pompeii, Troy, the tomb of Tutankhamun etc. Artists and designers integrated motifs from ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, Greece, Rome, Asia, Mesoamerica, and Oceania with Machine Age elements. Deco was also influenced by Cubism, Constructivism, Functionalism, Modernism, and Futurism.

Deco emphasizes geometric forms: spheres, polygons, rectangles, trapezoids, zigzags, chevrons, and sunburst motifs. Elements are often arranged in symmetrical patterns. Modern materials such as aluminum, stainless steel, Bakelite, chrome, and plastics are frequently used. Stained glass, inlays, and lacquer are also common. Colors tend to be vivid and high-contrast.

Federal Art Project poster promoting milk drinking in Cleveland, Ohio, 1940

Federal Art Project poster promoting milk drinking in Cleveland, Ohio, 1940

Art Deco was a globally popular style and affected many areas of design. It was used widely in consumer products such as automobiles, furniture, cookware, china, textiles, jewelry, clocks, and electronic items such as radios, telephones, jukeboxes. It also influenced architecture, interior design, industrial design, fashion, graphic arts, and cinema.

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During the 1930s Art Deco was used extensively for public works projects, railway stations, ocean liners (including the Île de France, Queen Mary, Normandie), movie palaces, and amusement parks.

The austerities imposed by World War II caused Art Deco to decline in popularity: it was perceived by some as gaudy and inappropriately luxurious.

A resurgence of interest began during the 1960s. Deco continues to inspire designers and is often used in contemporary fashion, jewelry, and toiletries.

Hope you enjoyed the article as much as i did compiling the info and the images! See you next time!

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This Articles’ text is licensed under the Creative Commons BY-SA License since it partially uses material from Wikipedia.

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