Art Periods- Style Moderne: Art Deco
The Art Deco spire of the Chrysler Building in New York, built 1928–1930.
Art Deco was a popular design movement from 1920 until 1939, affecting the decorative arts such as architecture, interior design, and industrial design, as well as the visual arts such as fashion, painting, the graphic arts, and film. This movement was, in a sense, an amalgamation of many different styles and movements of the early 20th century, including Constructivism (art), Cubism, Modernism, Bauhaus, Art Nouveau, and Futurism. Its popularity apexed during the 1920s. Although many design movements have political or philosophical roots or intentions, Art Deco was purely decorative. At the time, this style was seen as elegant, functional, and ultra modern.
After the Universal Exposition of 1900, various French artists formed a formal collective, La Société des artistes décorateurs. Founders included Hector Guimard, Eugène Grasset, Raoul Lachenal, Paul Follot, Maurice Dufrene, and Emile Decour. These artists heavily influenced the principles of Art Deco as a whole. This society’s purpose was to demonstrate French decorative art’s leading position and evolution internationally. Naturally, they organized the 1925 Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes (International Exposition of Modern Industrial and Decorative Arts), which would feature French art and business interests.
The initial movement was called Style Moderne. The term Art Deco was derived from the Exposition of 1925, though it wasn’t until the late 1960s that this term was coined by art historian Bevis Hillier, and popularized by his 1968 book Art Deco of the 20s and 30s. In the Summer of 1969, Hillier conceived organizing an exhibition called Art Deco at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, which took place from July to September 1971. After this, interest in Art Deco peaked with the publication of Hillier’ 1971 book The World of Art Deco, a record of the exhibition.
Sources and attributes
City Hall of Buffalo, New York, an Art Deco masterpiece.
Nash Ambassador Slipstream sedan.
The Hotel Pegasus in downtown Key West, Florida. An example of Art Deco.
It was widely considered to be an eclectic form of elegant and stylish modernism, being influenced by a variety of sources. Among them were the “primitive” arts of Africa, Egypt, or Aztec Mexico, as well as Machine Age or streamline technology such as modern aviation, electric lighting, the radio, and the skyscraper. These design influences were expressed in fractionated, crystalline, faceted forms of decorative Cubism and Futurism, in Fauvism‘s palette. Other popular themes in art deco were trapezoidal, zigzagged, geometric, and jumbled shapes, which can be seen in many early pieces.
Corresponding to these influences, Art Deco is characterized by use of materials such as aluminium, stainless steel, lacquer, inlaid wood, sharkskin (shagreen), and zebraskin. The bold use of stepped forms, and sweeping curves (unlike the sinuous, natural curves of the Art Nouveau), chevron patterns, and the sunburst motif are typical of Art Deco. Some of these motifs were ubiquitous — for example, sunburst motifs were used in such varied contexts as ladies’ shoes, radiator grilles, the auditorium of the Radio City Music Hall, and the spire of the Chrysler Building.
Art Deco was an opulent style, and its lavishness is attributed to reaction to the forced austerity imposed by World War I. Its rich, festive character fitted it for “modern” contexts, including the Golden Gate Bridge, interiors of cinema theaters (a prime example being the Paramount Theater in Oakland, California) and ocean liners such as the Ile de France and Normandie.
A parallel movement called Streamline Moderne, or simply Streamline, followed close behind. Streamline was influenced by the modern aerodynamic designs emerging from advancing technologies in aviation, ballistics, and other fields requiring high velocity. The attractive shapes resulting from scientifically applied aerodynamic principles were enthusiastically adopted within Art Deco, applying streamlining techniques to other useful objects in everyday life, such as the automobile. Although the Chrysler Airflow design of 1933 was commercially unsuccessful, it provided the lead for more conservatively designed pseudo-streamlined vehicles. These “streamlined” forms began to be used even for mundane and static objects such as pencil sharpeners and refrigerators.
The Art Deco style celebrates the Machine Age through explicit use of man-made materials (particularly glass and stainless steel), symmetry, repetition, modified by Asian influences such as the use of silks and Middle Eastern designs. It was strongly adopted in the United States during the Great Depression for its practicality and simplicity, while still portraying a reminder of better times and the “American Dream“.
Among the decorative arts during this period, architecture and sculpture are easier to recognize than other forms of Art Deco, for they experienced the greatest popularity and with greater longevity than others, such as lacquering, glass work, and industrial design. Popular sculptors include Lee Lawrie, Rene Paul Chambellan, Paul Manship, C. Paul Jennewein, and Joseph Kiselewski.
Architects of this time include Albert Anis, Ernest Cormier, Banister Flight Fletcher, Bruce Goff, Charles Holden, Raymond Hood, Ely Jacques Kahn, Edwin Lutyens, William van Alen, Wirt C. Rowland, Giles Gilbert Scott, Joseph Sunlight, Ralph Walker, Thomas Wallis, and Owen Williams.
Other forms of decorative art were very focused on elegance, dynamic design, and bright colours, while expressing practical modernity. Many popular interior designers of this period were also furniture designers. Artists like Eileen Gray, Jules Leleuand, and Émile-Jacques Ruhlmann all fit into this category.
A select few industrial designers were extremely popular, such as Walter Dorwin Teague, Maurice Ascalon, and Donald Deskey. Other notable artists were Georg Jensen (silversmith), Jean Dunand (lacquer), Edgar Brandt (wrought iron), and Cartier (clocks and jewelry).
Art Deco slowly lost patronage in the West after reaching mass production, when it began to be derided as gaudy and presenting a false image of luxury. Eventually, the style was cut short by the austerities of World War II. In colonial countries such as India and the Philippines, it became a gateway for Modernism and continued to be used well into the 1960s. Before destruction in World War II, Manila demonstrated many Art Deco buildings; a symbol of the American colonial past. Theatres and Office Buildings have been lost in the war and recently demolished and abandoned for new development. A resurgence of interest in Art Deco came with graphic design in the 1980s, where its association with film noir and 1930s glamour led to its use in ads for jewelry and fashion. South Beach in Miami, FL has the largest collection of Art Deco architecture remaining in North America. Napier, New Zealand has an almost entirely Art Deco town center, rebuilt after a devastating 1931 earthquake, and mostly left unchanged since then.
College Park (Toronto) Department Store interior drawing.
Although Art Deco fell out of vogue in the 1940s, it has had small rebirths over subsequent decades. Its designs frequently appear in modern architecture, entertainment, and media when a “classic retro” look is sought. In media, such examples are obvious in Batman: The Animated Series from the early 1990s in which the show’s creators used Art Deco styling fused with a deliberate darkness to create an Art Deco variant style often referred to as Dark Deco. Films such as Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, Dick Tracy, and King Kong have various Art Deco elements as well. In Marilyn Manson‘s The Golden Age of Grotesque, he demonstrates an Art Deco style mixed with his Gothic trademark.
In Long Beach, California, much of the recent city development has been presented in an Art Deco-like, postmodern style. Similarly, Downtown Disney in Anaheim, California has an Art Deco-themed section.
Art Deco is used heavily in video game graphic design. Bioshock takes place in an underwater community heavily influenced by Art Deco. The design of Fallout was heavily influenced by Art Deco. The film noir-type adventure game Grim Fandango largely takes place in a very pronounced Art Deco environment. The computer game Sim City 4 makes heavy use of Art Deco buildings. Shanghai had a distinct Art Deco style. Today, some Shanghainese are attempting to save that architecture.
- ^ Hillier, Bevis The World of Art Deco New York:1971–E.P. Dutton & Co., Inc.