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WHAT IS ART DECO? Art Deco, also called style moderne , is a movement in the decorative arts and architecture that originated in the 1920 s and developed into a major style in western Europe and the United States during the 1930 s. Its name was derived from the Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes, held in Paris in 1925, where the style was first exhibited. Art Deco design represented modernism turned into fashion. Its products included both individually crafted luxury items and mass-produced wares, but, in either case, the intention was to create a sleek and anti-traditional elegance that symbolized wealth and sophistication. Art Deco is an influential visual arts design style that first appeared in France. Among the formative influence on Art Deco were Art Nouveau, the Bauhaus, Cubism, and Serge Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes. Decorative ideas came from American Indian, Egyptian, and early classical sources as well as from nature. Characteristics motifs included female figures, animals, foliage, and sunrays, all in conventionalized forms. Tamara de Lempicka, "The Musician", 1929, oil on canvas. Raymond Duchamp-Villon, 1912, La Maison Cubiste (Cubist House) at the Salon d'Automne, 1912, detail of the entrance. Photograph by Duchamp-Villon.
ORIGINS Historians have traced Deco’s roots to the Universal Exposition of 1900’s. After this show a group of artists established an informal collective known as La Société des artistes décorateurs (Society of Decorator Artists) to promote the French crafts. Among them were, Eugène Grasset, Emile Decoeur, Paul Bellot, Maurice Dufrêne and Hector Guimard. These artists have said to influence the principles of Art Deco. The Exposition Universelle of 1900’s was a world's fair held in Paris, France, from 15 April to 12 November 1900, to celebrate the achievements of the past century and to accelerate development into the next. The fair, visited by nearly 50 million, displayed many machines, inventions, and architecture that are now nearly universally known, including the Grande Roue de Paris Ferris wheel, Russian nesting dolls, diesel engines, talking films, escalators, and the telegraphone (the first magnetic audio recorder).
DEVELOPMENTS OF THE 20 TH CENTURY Art Deco first appeared in France after World War I and began flourishing internationally in the 1920 s, 1930 s and 1940 s before its popularity waned after World War II. One of the prominent traits of the 20 th century was the dramatic growth of technology. Organized research and practice of science led to advancement in the fields of communication, engineering, travel, medicine, and war. • The number and types of home appliances increased dramatically due to advancements in technology, electricity availability, and increases in wealth and leisure time. Such basic appliances as washing machines, clothes dryers, furnaces, exercise machines, refrigerators, freezers, electric stoves, and vacuum cleaners all became popular from the 1920 s through the 1950 s. • The first airplane was flown in 1903. With the engineering of the faster jet engine in the 1940 s, mass air travel became commercially viable. • New materials, most notably stainless steel, plastics, polyethylene, Velcro, and Teflon, came into widespread use for many various applications. • Aluminum became an inexpensive metal and became second only to iron in use. Semiconductors were put to use in electronic objects. • Thousands of chemicals were developed for industrial processing and home use. Historian Bevis Hillier defined Art Deco as "an assertively modern style that ran to symmetry rather than asymmetry, and to the rectilinear rather than the curvilinear; it responded to the demands of the machine and of new material and the requirements of mass production".
THE GREAT DEPRESSION A historical event that occurred during the 20 th century was the Great Depression (1929 -39) was the deepest and longest-lasting economic downturn in the history of the Western industrialized world. In the United States, the Great Depression began soon after the stock market crash of October 1929, which sent Wall Street into a panic and wiped out millions of investors. Over the next several years, consumer spending and investment dropped, causing steep declines in industrial output and rising levels of unemployment as failing companies laid off workers. By 1933, when the Great Depression reached its nadir, some 13 to 15 million Americans were unemployed and nearly half of the country’s banks had failed. Though the relief and reform measures put into place by President Franklin D. Roosevelt helped lessen the worst effects of the Great Depression in the 1930 s, the economy would not fully turn around until after 1939, when World War II kicked American industry into high gear.
ART DECO CREATORS Most of the outstanding Art Deco creators designed individually crafted or limited-edition items. They included the furniture designers: • Jacques Ruhlmann and Maurice Dufrène; • the architect Eliel Saarinen; • metalsmith Jean Puiforcat; • glass and jewelry designer René Lalique; • fashion designer Erté; • The fashion designer Paul Poiret • and the graphic artist Edward Mc. Knight Kauffer represent those work directly reached a larger audience. • New York City’s Rockefeller Center (especially its interiors supervised by Donald Deskey), • the Chrysler Building by William Van Alen, • and the Empire State Building by Shreve, Lamb & Harmon are the most monumental embodiments of Art Deco. Although the style went out of fashion during World War II, beginning in the late 1960 s there was a renewed interest in Art Deco design.
POST CUBIST PICTORIAL MODERNISM After world war I, cubist ideas inspired a new direction in pictorial images. It was referred to as art deco; a term used to identify popular geometric works of the 1920 s and 1930 s. The streamlining, zigzag, and decorative geometry were used to express the modern era of the machine while still satisfying a passion for decoration that carried over from art nouveau. Edward Mc. Knight Kauffer and A. M. Cassandra played major roles in defining this new approach. Kauffer's Metropolis related work includes a colour drawing - gouache of paper, 29 1/2 x 17 inches, dated 1926 - now located in the Museum of Modern Art, New York. It features rows of stooped workers and the wheels of large machines, with tall, blank skyscrapers in the background. A black and white print or reproduction of this work was published (refer below), unfortunately no information is at hand regarding the circumstances of its production. It is possible that this work was produced prior to the UK release of Metropolis in March 1927, as part of an unsuccessful tender for the local posters and related material.
ANTOINE BOURDELLE Antoine Bourdelle, 1910– 12, Apollon et sa méditation entourée des 9 muses (The Meditation of Apollo and the Muses), bas-relief, Théâtre des Champs Elysées, Paris. This work represents one of the earliest examples of what would become known as Art Deco sculpture. Antoine Bourdelle (30 October 1861 – 1 October 1929), born Émile Antoine Bourdelle, was an influential and prolific French sculptor, painter, and teacher. His studio became the Musée Bourdelle, an art museum dedicated to his work, located at 18, rue Antoine Bourdelle, in the 15 th arrondissement of Paris, France.
WILLIAM VAN ALEN William Van Alen (August 10, 1883 – May 24, 1954) was an American architect, best known as the architect in charge of designing New York City's Chrysler Building (1929– 30). The Chrysler Building is an Art Deco style skyscraper in New York City, located on the east side of Manhattan in the Turtle Bay area at the intersection of 42 nd Street and Lexington Avenue. At 1, 046 feet (319 m), the structure was the world's tallest building for 11 months before it was surpassed by the Empire State Building in 1931. The Chrysler Building is a classic example of Art Deco architecture and considered by many contemporary architects to be one of the finest buildings in New York City.
EDWARD KAUFFER Edward Kauffer was born in the USA, but persuaded to travel by an esteemed Professor called Mc. Knight whose name he adopted. He lived in Britain from 1914 – 1940 where he became the most well-known poster artist and a member of the intellectual Bloomsbury Group. He was primarily a painter until 1921, when his work as poster designer and graphic artist took off. Kauffer's famous, 1918, Daily Herald poster showed how the spatial organization and synthetic imagery of cubism could be used with strong Kauffer had a long standing interest in effects of communications technology on humankind and was aware of the impact in graphic Vorticists group who worshiped the machine as an icon. design. Vorticism was a short-lived modernist movement in British art and poetry of the early 20 th century. It was partly inspired by Cubism.