Art Deco Movement

Art Deco Movement

Architectural Styles

Art Deco- The Height of the Roaring 20’s


The Art Deco architectural period was popular during the 1920s and 30s. The name comes from the Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes in Paris in 1925, which is where the style was first exhibited. The intention of this style was to create a sleek, anti-traditional elegance that was symbolic of wealth and sophistication. The architectural style is characterized by rich embellishments which used hard-edged geometric shapes like chevrons alongside floral and sunrise patterns. Products of this style were both individually crafted and mass-produced. Many prominent buildings in the U.S. in New York, Chicago, and Miami are monuments of the Art Deco style. One of the most recognizable Art Deco buildings is the Empire State building in New York City. The Art Deco Period ended in the U.S. at the beginning of World War II as society made the move toward more functional everyday styles.

The Art Deco style began in the United States after French exhibition in 1925. The style remained popular through the end of the 1920s into the 1930s but began to fade at the start of World War II. The name Art Deco comes from the French term Arts Décoratifs, meaning Decorative Arts. The style influenced architecture along with the design of furniture, jewelry, fashion, cars, theaters and even trains, ocean liners and vacuum cleaners.

During the Great Depression in the 1930s, the style became more subdued. The arrival of new building materials like chrome plating and stainless steel altered the style to be sleeker with more curves and polished surfaces ultimately leading to the Streamline Moderne style.

Hollywood picked up on the Art Deco style when art director Cedric Gibbons attended the 1925 exposition. Gibbons was the head of the art department at MGM. The silver screen of the 1930s displayed lavish rooms with sharp geometric designs which inspired many of the actors and directors to use the style in the construction of their homes. Films featuring Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire show off the grand architecture alongside the fanciful fashion.

The style was rarely applied to homes and was very popular for large buildings like apartment complexes or places of business. A major characteristic of the style is the rectangular blocky form which would often be arranged in a geometric fashion and broken up by curved ornamental elements. Elements used in construction included stucco, concrete, smooth stone, and terracotta. Steel and aluminum were also used alongside glass blocks and decorative opaque plate glass. Roofs were adorned with spires or tower-like structures or other decorative elements to enhance elements of the design.

The windows often appeared as punctured openings and were arranged in horizontal bands to keep the streamlined look of the building. Often, wall openings would be filled with decorative glass to contrast the solid forms and to let in daylight. The doorways were sometimes surrounded with elaborate pilasters or pediments while the door surrounds had embellishments with either reeding or fluting.

To match the architectural style, furniture, jewelry, and fashion of the time period also took up elements of the Art Deco style. Furniture and decor had the same stark geometric patterns and eccentric flair. Jewelry of the style is known for its symmetry and its own geometric lines. Many of these things were crafted individually, though some of it was mass manufactured.

Master jewellers like Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpels, and Raymond Templier developed new styles featuring clean lines, contrast, and color. Unorthodox combinations of stones became the style and large gemstones were cast aside in favor of small, brilliant-cut diamonds. Geometry and color contrasts were the most accentuated features.

Interior design of the Art Deco style used elegant dark woods and wooden panels. Donald Deskey was an influential interior designer who supervised the interior design for Rockefeller Center’s Radio City Music Hall in New York City. Deskey was innovative in his use of industrial material in his designs.

Fashion designer Erté was a costume designer and was under contract at Harper’s Bazaar from 1916-1937. While at Harper-Bazaar he created gouache, highly stylized illustrations that depicted models draped in jewels and flowing materials.

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