The Art Deco movement emerged at the tail end of the Edwardian period and lasted right up to the end of the 1930s, although its height of popularity was during the The Jazz Age of the 1920s. Its style was a reaction to the previously popular Art Nouveau movement which was highly influenced by nature and had a distinctive style of sinuous, elongated and curvy lines. Motifs of flowers, leaves and birds were extremely stylized and female figures were painted in curved poses with long, flowing hair and costumes. Colours were subdued and pastel and materials were soft and pliable.
Art Deco rebelled against all these features and exploded with sharp, angular lines, geometric patterns, hard materials such as marble, bakelite & chrome metal and rich opulent colours of black, gold & silver. Motifs were inspired by the modern world of the day. Travelling to far off countries, industry and the surge in graphic design all influenced motifs such as Egyptian cats, chevrons, sunbursts, methods of transport such as the ocean liner and machinery.
The period between the end of WWI in 1918 and the Great Depression that began in 1929 was the hey-day of the hedonistic Deco period. Although the effects and influences were felt across the world, America was the country that prospered greatly during this time due to the expansion of the mass consumer industry. Cars, refrigerators, radios, cookers and telephones were all available to everyone for the first time, not just the rich. Food was plentiful due to the vast quantity produced on American farms. The general public was encouraged to buy their own homes and spend their money on things that were previously considered luxury items by the huge rise in advertising.
This upturn in the economic state lead to the increase in disposable income, which in turn lead to the extensive interest in leisure time activities. Theatres, “speakeasies” (secret, illegal bars), music halls and radio stations all sprang up to entertain the masses. This was further enhanced by the introduction of thousands of black and white silent films produced in Hollywood and shown in new built Deco style cinemas. The first “talkie”, The Jazz Singer, opened in 1928 and the age of cinema was here to stay.
Influences of the era
In 1922 the Tomb of King Tutankhamun was discovered and the influence of Egyptian artifacts and motifs became very apparent throughout interiors, jewellery, glass and art.
In 1923 the Charleston dance became hugely popular among the young flappers and this greatly influenced the dresses worn during this time. The addition of fringing and beading exaggerated the movements of the dance steps.
In 1926 Coco Chanel introduced the iconic “little black dress”. Chanel was incredibly successful during the 1910s & 20s and built a business that started as a simple hat shop to having her own range of perfumes, designing costumes for theatre & movie productions and of course being credited with her signature styles such as the Chanel jacket.
Artists & Designers
Tamara de Lempicka – Artist
Pablo Picasso – Artist
Robert & Sonia Delaunay – Artists, costume & textile designers
Madeleine Vionnet – Fashion designer
Erté (born Romain de Tirtoff) – Fashion & stage designer
Robert and Sonia Delaunay – Artists, costume & textile designers
A.M. Cassandre – Graphic designer
Rene Lalique – Designer
Walter Gropius – Founder of Bauhaus & architect
Chrysler Building – New York, USA
The Empire State – New York, USA
Eltham Palace – Greenwich, London, UK
London Transport HQ – St James’, London, UK
Fagus Works – Alfeld an der Leine, Germany
The Hoover Building – Perivale, Middlesex, UK
Art Deco at Past Times