Art Deco

From Academic Kids

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Asheville City Hall. This building epotomizes the Art Deco style of the 1920s.

Art Deco was a movement in decorative arts that also affected architecture. It derived its name from the World's fair held in Paris in 1925, formally titled the Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes, which showcased French luxury goods and reassured the world that Paris remained the international center of style. Art Deco did not originate with the Exposition; it was a major style in Europe from the early 1920s, though it did not catch on in the U.S. until about 1928, when it quickly modulated into the Moderne during the 1930s, the decade with which the concept of Art Deco is most strongly associated today.



The term Art Deco was coined during the Exposition of 1925 but did not receive wider usage until it was re-evaluated in the 1960s. Its practitioners were not working as a coherent community. It is considered to be eclectic, being influenced by a variety of sources, to name a few:

  • Early work from the Wiener Werkstätte; functional industrial design
  • "Primitive" arts of Africa, Egypt, or Aztec Mexico
  • Ancient Greek sculpture and pottery design of the less naturalistic "archaic period"
  • Léon Bakst's sets and costumes for Diaghilev's Ballets Russes
  • Fractionated, crystalline, facetted form of decorative Cubism and Futurism
  • Fauve color palette
  • Severe forms of Neoclassicism: Boullée, Schinkel
  • Everything associated with Jazz, Jazz Age or "jazzy"
  • Animal motifs and forms; tropical foliage; ziggurats; crystals; "sunbursts"; stylized fountain motifs
  • Lithe athletic "modern" female forms; flappers' bobbed haircuts
  • "Machine age" technology such as the radio and skyscraper.
The Art Deco spire of the  commemorated on a US stamp
The Art Deco spire of the Chrysler Building commemorated on a US stamp

Corresponding to these influences, the Art Deco is characterised by use of materials such as sharkskin and zebraskin, zigzag and stepped forms, bold and sweeping curves (unlike the sinuous curves of the Art nouveau), chevron patterns, sunburst motif, etc. Some of these motifs were ubiquitous- for example the sunburst motif was used in such varied contexts as a lady's shoe, a radiator grille, the auditorium of the Radio City Music Hall and the spire of the Chrysler Building. Art Deco was an opulent style and this opulence is attributed as a reaction to the forced austerity during the years of World War I. Art Deco was a popular style for interiors of cinema theatres and ocean liners such as the Ile de France and Normandie.

A parallel movement following close behind, the Streamline or Streamline Moderne, was influenced by manufacturing and streamlining techniques arising from science and mass production- shape of bullet, liners, etc., where aerodynamics are involved. Once the Chrysler Air-Flo design of 1933 (date) was successful, "streamlined" forms began to be used even for objects such as pencil sharpeners and refrigerators. In architecture, this style was characterised by rounded corners, used predominantly for buildings at road junctions.

Some historians see Art Deco as a type of or early form of Modernism.

Art Deco slowly lost patronage in the West and was cut short by the austerities of World War II. In colonial countries such as India, it became a gateway for Modernism and continued to be used well into the 1960s.

Noted Art Deco artists and designers

Noted Art Deco architects

Noted Art Deco designs

Jean Gardner's book Houses of the Art Deco Years ISBN 1898030715 looks at the influence of art deco upon suburban housing styles in England. She considers each architectural feature, chapter by chapter, to reveal how various art deco styles influenced British domestic architecture in 1920s and 1930s.

External links

es:Art decó fr:Art déco nl:Art Deco ja:アール・デコ pt:Art Déco sv:Art déco zh:装饰艺术运动


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