Art Deco

About Art Deco

New York City's Chrysler Building, designed by William Van Alen and completed in 1930, is a quintessential example of Art Deco style.

What is Art Deco?

Art Deco dazzlingly reflected the swinging energy, lavish indulgence, and machine-driven optimism of the interwar years in France and the United States. Drawing from a rich range of inspirations – the striking geometry of Cubism, the thrilling color and movement of the Ballets Russes, the ultimate opulence of King Tut's rediscovered tomb – Art Deco was a “total style,” influencing the design and production of everything from skyscrapers to cars to jewelry.

Tamara de Lempicka, LE RÊVE (RAFAËLA SUR FOND VERT), 1927. Sold for $8,482,500 in 2011. WestImage - Art Digital Studio

What are Art Deco stylistic characteristics?

France, ART DECO STYLE PEDESTAL, early 20th century. Sold for 2,750 GBP.

The Art Deco style flourished in a wide range of creative practices, including graphic design (Robert Bonfils and Edward Mcknight Kauffe), home furnishing Maurice Dufrène and Jacques Ruhlmann), architecture (Timothy Pflueger and Henri Sauvage), and jewelry (René Lalique and Charles Lewis Tiffany).

An Art Deco Diamond bracelet, Cartier, 1920s. Sold for 175,000 GBP in 2019.

Pushed out of the foreground were the normally dominant fine art media of easel painting and freestanding sculpture. Of these two, Art Deco sculpture is most notable, with important public examples including Antoine Bourdelle's La France at Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris and Lee Lawrie's Atlas at New York's Rockefeller Center. While the famous cubists Robert Delaunay and Fernand Leger made Art Deco paintings for the 1925 Exposition internationale, there are only a few painters to whom the term Art Deco may decisively be applied – these include Tamara de Lempicka and Raphael Delorme.

Villa Isola in Bandung, photographed circa 1940-50

Art Deco in Indonesia

Indonesia boasts one of the largest and most vibrant arrays of Art Deco buildings the world over. The 1930s saw a heightened interest in all things Balinese, as evidenced by movies like Bali Hai and Honeymoon in Bali; likewise, many Indonesian artisans were deeply inspired by the Art Deco movement, combining these sleek new lines with indigenous practices, particularly wood carving, and exports of these syncretic designs peaked in the decade preceding Indonesia's independence in 1945. Several spectacular examples of Indonesian Art Deco architecture survive, including Cirebon City Hall, the Savoy Homann Bidakara Hotel, and Villa Isola.

Impact and Legacy of Art Deco

The Art Deco aesthetic fell out of favor in the 1940s and 1950s but saw a resurgence in the 1960s, and experienced similar revivals in the 1980s and 2010s, with landmark buildings such as the NBC Rockefeller Plaza (1989) and the Smith Center for the Performing Arts (2012) in Las Vegas hearkening back to the architectural innovations of the 1920s, and couture designs by Gucci and Christian Dior heralding the “return of the flapper dress.”

Art Deco objects are also well represented in the collections of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum in New York,and the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, among many others.

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Timeline

Timeline & History of Art Deco
  • 1875
    Furniture designers, jewelers, glaziers and other craftsmen were officially given the status of artists by the French government, and the Ecole royale gratuite de dessin was renamed the École nationale des arts décoratifs



    (left) Former entrance to the École nationale des arts décoratifs under Louis XV
  • 1910
    Art Nouveau, a reaction against academicism and historicism in architecture and decoration characterized by sinuous and foliate forms, becomes more stylized and geometric and gives way to the Art Deco aesthetic



    (left) A poster by Jules Chéret, entitled La Loïe Fuller, in the Art Nouveau style
  • 1912
    The decorative arts section of the Salon d'Autone features La Maison Cubiste, with facade by Raymond Duchamp-Villon, décor by André Mare, and paintings by the Cubist-Orphist Section d'Or group



    (left) Design for the facade of the Maison Cubiste (Cubist House) by Raymond Duchamp-Villon (1912)
  • 1913
    Auguste Perret's Théâtre des Champs-Élysées, Paris's first landmark Art Deco Building, is completed



    (left) Théatre des Champs Elysées, Paris, France
  • 1925
    Exposition internationale des arts décoratifs et industriels modernes is held in Paris; this event marks the apex of the style and gives it its name



    (left) Postcard of the Exposition Internationale des Arts décoratifs et industriels modernes (1925)
  • 1926
    The tennis dress worn by Miss Hepburne Scott – now in the collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum is London – integrates the Art Deco style into functional fashion



    (left) The tennis dress, pictured here on display in the V&A
  • 1930
    William Van Alen's Chrysler Building, the quintessential Art Deco skyscraper, is built in Manhattan



    (left) The Chrysler Building in 1932
  • 1931
    Paul Landowski and Heitor da Silva Costa's hundred-foot soapstone statue Christ the Redeemer, an exemplar of Art Deco style, is raised on the peak of Corcovado Mountain in Rio de Janeiro



    (left) Aerial view of the Statue of Christ the Redeemer
  • 1933
    Jeanne Lanvin's “Phèdre” evening dress epitomizes Art Deco elegance



    (left) "Phèdre", evening dress (silk and metal), Fall/Winter 1933
  • 1934
    Paul Manship's gilded bronze Prometheus is installed at Rockefeller Center



    (left) Prometheus Statue at Rockefeller Center, NY
  • 1935
    A.M. Cassandre designs his celebrated poster of the ocean liner SS Normandie, one of the most iconic examples of Art Deco graphics



    (left) The SS Normandie poster (Pictorial Press Ltd / Alamy Stock Photo)
  • 1937
    The sleekly lined Electrolux vacuum cleaner exemplifies Art Deco's influence on the design of even quotidian consumer products



    (left) Vacuum Cleaner designed by Lurelle Guild circa 1937, on display in the Brooklyn Museum
  • 1940
    Disney's Fantasia employs Art Deco motifs in its animation



    (left) Logo for the 1940 Walt Disney film Fantasia, as seen in the film's original theatrical trailer
  • 1941
    America's entry into World War II precipitates the demise of the Art Deco movement as austerity and functionality become the order of the day



    (left) American troops approaching Omaha Beach
  • 1966
    The phrase "Art Deco" first appears in print, in connection with an exhibition at the Museum of Decorative Arts in Paris; at this time, Art Deco designs begin to be revived in architecture and décor



    (left) A poster from the 1966 exhibition

Artists

The Art Deco style flourished in a wide range of creative practices, including graphic design (Robert Bonfils and Edward Mcknight Kauffe), home furnishing (Maurice Dufrène and Jacques Ruhlmann), architecture (Timothy Pflueger and Henri Sauvage) and jewelry (René Lalique and Charles Lewis Tiffany). Pushed out of the foreground were the normally dominant fine art media of easel painting and freestanding sculpture. Of these two, Art Deco sculpture is most notable, with important public examples including Antoine Bourdelle's La France at Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris and Lee Lawrie's Atlas at New York's Rockefeller Center. While the famous cubists Robert Delaunay and Fernand Leger made Art Deco paintings for the 1925 Exposition internationale, there are only a few painters to whom the term Art Deco may decisively be applied – these include Tamara de Lempicka and Raphael Delorme.

Art Deco at Auction

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