Art Deco Movement, Style & Characteristics

Art Deco Movement, Style & 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 exactly 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 Décoratifs 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. 

Despite the fact that Art Deco pieces were seldom mass-produced, the style's defining characteristics indicated enthusiasm for the machine's innovation as well as the intrinsic design traits of machine-made products.

What defines the Art Deco style?

Symmetrical, geometric, sleek, often basic, and appealing to the eye, Art Deco creations are. 

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. The design of a skyscraper is emblematic of the twentieth century.

What distinguishes the Art Deco style from others?

Art Deco's distinguishing characteristics show enthusiasm for the machine's innovation as well as the intrinsic design attributes of machine-made objects—for example, apparent minimalism, planarity, geometry, and unvarying repetition of parts. 

Art Deco's Beginnings

Several of the renowned artists, designers, and engineers who had played key roles in the progression of the Art Nouveau style in France understood it was becoming progressively passe by the end of the 19th century.

Modern living became drastically different from a few decades ago at the end of a period that saw the Industrial Revolution take hold. This was time for something different, something that would scream "20th Century" from the summits of beautiful modernist buildings.

Art Nouveau and Art Deco are two different styles of design

Art Deco was an aesthetic and intellectual immediate reaction to Art Nouveau and the larger cultural movement of modernism. During World War I, many critics believed that Art Nouveau's exquisite intricacy, delicate patterns, frequently expensive materials, and production processes were unsuited to a demanding, uncertain, and increasingly mechanized contemporary world.

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.

Modernism and Art Deco

Not only did the Exposition Internationale bring together works in the Art Deco style, but it also included handcrafted products alongside avant-garde paintings and sculptures in genres like Cubism, Constructivism, Bauhaus, De Stijl, and Futurism.

By the 1920s, Art Deco had established itself as an exuberant, but mostly mainstream, alternative to the more cerebral aesthetics of Bauhaus and De Stijl. As an organizational design idea, all three emphasized clean, powerful lines. Art Deco designers embraced technological advancements, new materials, and mechanization, and strove to incorporate them into the style's overall appearance. Other modernist movements were also absorbed and studied by practitioners.

Art Deco gained a following among fans who shared the forward-thinking ideas of contemporary avant-garde movements. Excluding the Soviet pavilion and Le Corbusier's Esprit Nouveau pavilion, modernist painting and sculpture had a secondary position at the exhibition.

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. Art Nouveau, which incorporated natural features such as spiraling vines and floral designs, was in direct opposition to Art Deco.

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. 

A few aspects of the Art Deco style are listed below.

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.

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 the lofty heights. To demonstrate their significance, banks were designed in the Art Deco style as well.

The interiors of Art Deco cinema theaters were opulent, with silk drapes and smooth seats. 

Art Deco Notable Works

William Van Alen's Chrysler Building, 1930: The Chrysler Building in New York City, finished in 1930 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.

Tamara de Lem Tamara de Lempicka is an artist known for her geometric, spatial portraits of people of 1920s society. She is among the visual artists linked with the Art Deco style.

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 Després
  • Eugène Grasset
  • Hector Guimard
  • Tamara de Lempicka
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