Art Deco Movement, Style & Characteristics

What Is Art Deco? [ Style, Movement, & Characteristics ]

Art Deco, sometimes known as Deco, is a visual art movement that utilized unique designs that originated in France shortly before World War I.

Structures, furniture, jewelry, clothes, cars, movies, trains, passenger ships, and everyday goods like radio systems and vacuum cleaners were all impacted by it.

What is Art Deco?

Art Deco is a functional and attractive style from the 1920s and 1930s that is distinguished by its use of man-made elements and clean linear or decorative forms.

Art Deco, also known as style moderne, is a creative arts and architecture trend that began in the 1920s and became prevalent in western Europe and the United States in the 1930s.

Its name comes from the Exhibition Internationale des Arts DĂ©coratifs et Industriels Modernes, which took place in Paris in 1925 and was the inaugural exhibition of the style. Art Deco design exemplified modernism's transformation into fashion.

Its items featured both handcrafted luxurious goods and bulk goods, but the goal was to create an elegant, anti-traditional attractiveness that represented richness and intelligence in both cases.

Simple, clean forms, sometimes with a "standardized" appearance; spatial or stylized decorative elements from art forms; and atypically diverse, frequently valuable items, which commonly include man-made equipment helped create the art Deco style.

Art Deco Style

Ancient Egyptian and Mesopotamian art, as well as the work of European artists like Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and Gustav Klimt, served as inspiration for the Art Deco style.

Art Deco was widely adopted across multiple industries, from building construction to the design of furniture, clothing, jewelry, and posters. It was widely employed for the interior design of public and private venues such as hotels, movie theaters, and performance theaters, and it enjoyed a great deal of success in the United States and Europe.

Examples of classic Art Deco style features include:

  1. Art Deco commonly uses geometric shapes like circles, triangles, and zigzags in its patterns.

  2. Art Deco is characterized by its use of bright, primary hues that are commonly paired with metallic accents like gold and silver.

  3. Marble, chrome, and glass are just a few examples of the opulent materials frequently used in Art Deco architecture and interiors.

  4. Art Deco is known for its ornamental motifs, which frequently include sunbursts, fountains, and stylized animals.

Following World War II, the Art Deco style went out of favor, although it is still influential in the design industry today.

What defines the Art Deco style?

Symmetrical, geometric, sleek, often basic, and appealing to the eye is the Art Deco style.

What distinguishes the Art Deco style from others?

Art Deco is distinguished by its utilization of sharp angles, daring designs, and modern materials like chrome, glass, and metal. Architectural elements, pieces of furniture, and even commonplace objects were all crafted in this opulent manner.

Art Deco can be easily identified by its unique combination of elements, including its concentration on symmetry and geometric patterns, its use of strong and bright colors, and its inclusion of unconventional materials and shapes.

What is the Art Deco theme?

Art Deco embodied the vitality and brightness of the roaring 20s, as well as the idealism and escapism of the bleak 1930s.

Sunbursts and fountains are the artistic themes, which symbolize the advent of a new contemporary era. 

A Look Back at the Origins of Art Deco

In the early 20th century, Paris was the birthplace of Art Deco, a style that drew inspiration from a wide range of other aesthetic trends.

Art Nouveau, a style prevalent in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, was a major inspiration for Art Deco because of its emphasis on organic, flowing lines and elaborate, ornamental patterns. Art from ancient Egypt and the Aztec Empire, as well as the minimalist and practical Bauhaus school, also influenced Art Deco.

In the 1920s, Art Deco emerged as one of the most prominent art movements of the era. It was widely employed in architecture, interior design, and graphic design, and enjoyed a high level of popularity in both Europe and the United States.

The Impact of Art Nouveau on Art Deco

The richness and ornamental detail that were hallmarks of Art Nouveau were a major influence on Art Deco. Designers of the Art Nouveau style were well-known for their use of ornate motifs, and this fondness for embellishment continued over into the Art Deco period.

Art Deco was defined by bold, geometric shapes and a more angular, modern style, in contrast to the Art Nouveau's preference for organic, flowing lines and natural forms.

While the Art Nouveau style drew inspiration from nature and celebrated the virtues of handicraft, the Art Deco approach stressed machine-age refinement and elegant symmetry.

Art Deco Style Characteristics

  • Art Deco was a primarily ornamental style that brought a sense of modernism to daily living.

  • The Art Deco movement eschewed painting and sculpture in favor of promoting elegance in the decorative arts, whether or not they served a practical purpose.

  • Art Deco was a grandiose style that merged classicism with geometry and the use of smooth lines and geometric motifs over and over again.

  • Plants, wildlife, and people became greatly stylized when the environment was included in Art Deco designs.

  • European or French Art Deco tended to be more luxurious, but American Art Deco was usually more restrained.

  • Geometric adornment: The geometric ornamentation of the Art Deco style is distinctive because the movement's designers were inspired by the symmetry of Cubist paintings, recurring geometric patterns such as squares, triangles, hexagons, and circles in their work.

  • Art Deco designers frequently incorporate stylized themes influenced by ancient Greece or Egypt, as well as features of Japanese, Chinese, Indian, and African art, into their work.

  • Artisanship: Decorative arts goods, especially antiques, textile materials, and jewelry, were frequently crafted by hand, demonstrating the craftsman's incredible talent.

  • Wonderfully designed, well-made products could be created as a result of the emergence of industrialization. Paintings and sculptures in the Art Deco style frequently included extended or stylized depictions of the human body.

Archeology and Art Deco

After the discovery of King Tut's tomb in 1922, decorative motifs from Ancient Egypt such as scrolls began appearing in all kinds of interior designs, from the Chrysler Building in New York to jewelry collections such as Cartier's Temple Clock.

Art Deco Jewelry, Decorative Objects, and Stylish Homewares

The Art Deco period saw a revolution in the design of jewelry. Rubies, sapphires diamonds, and jade were just some of the materials used to create glamorous brooches and necklaces, as well as wide flexible bracelets with tassels composed of seed pearls.

Designers such as Cartier and Van Cleef & Arpels drew inspiration from sources like India and started to create bold, colorful pieces using stones like rubies, emeralds, and sapphires. The designers made use of unique techniques to create stunning mosaic pieces without any visible metal showing!

Art Deco Fashion and Costume Designers

The Art Deco movement was the result of the combined efforts of numerous creative minds. Famous Art Deco artists and designers include:

Jean Dunand

Swiss-born artist and designer Jean Dunand is most known for his contributions to the Art Deco movement. His lacquered vases, bowls, and trays won acclaim for their exquisite design and expert execution.

Eileen Gray

As a designer and architect, Eileen Gray was an early proponent of the Art Deco movement. Her signature modernist lines and straightforward, practical shapes make her furniture a household name.

Paul Poiret

Paul Poiret, a French fashion designer and a major force in the Art Deco era, was a pioneer in his field. He had a significant impact on the evolution of the Art Deco style with his use of striking geometric forms and vivid colors in his apparel creations.

Romain de Tirtoff

Romain de Tirtoff also known as Erté was a Russian-born artist, fashion designer, and illustrator based in Paris. Erté's artwork decorated the covers of Vogue magazine, as well as theatrical sets and costumes for the opera. His designs reflect the Art Deco style of the time period.

Sonia Delaunay

Artist Sonia Delaunay was influential in pushing the boundaries of Art Deco by introducing colorful patterned textiles into her fashion design for modern women.

Jean Després

Jean Després was a French metalworker who is renowned for his Art Deco designs which are heavily inspired by airplanes and industrial design.

René Lalique

René Lalique is considered an important figure in the Art Deco style of jewelry and glassworks. He started out with Art Nouveau pieces before shifting to the modern and streamlined look that defined Art Deco for later generations. His collections included bottles, candlesticks, lamps, car hood ornaments, and jewelry.

Art Deco Architecture Characteristics

Buildings of the Art Deco period were characterized by an emphasis on verticality and flatforms. The Chicago Tribune Tower, designed by architects John Mead Howells (1868-1959) and Raymond Hood (1881-1934) and completed in 1925, was North America's first Art Deco structure.

Following that, towering office towers were developed in New York and other major cities with top-floor decorations highlighting their lofty heights. To demonstrate their significance, banks were designed in the Art Deco style as well.

Other Art Deco Notable Works

William Van Alen's Chrysler Building is possibly the most prominent example of Art Deco architecture. Its summit is encircled by stainless steel panels that form a hexagonal pattern of triangular-shaped panels. At the foundation of the spire are decorative gargoyles that harken back to ancient Greek sculpture.

Paul Manship's Prometheus (1934): Gilded bronze sculpture located in New York City's Rockefeller Center, depicts the Greek Titan Prometheus bringing fire to mankind. It exemplifies the art deco style by combining classical elements with modern materials.

Famous Art Deco Artist

  • Gerrit Rietveld
  • Rene Paul Chamberlain
  • Walter Gropius
  • William Van Alen
  • John Mead Howells
  • Raymond Hood
  • Francis Jourdain
  • Chiparus, Demetre Haralamb
  • Lorenzl
  • Marcel Breuer
  • Lee Lawrie
  • Jean DesprĂ©s
  • Eugène Grasset
  • Hector Guimard
  • Tamara de Lempicka
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