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Art Deco Style

Art Deco is the popular name for the design movement that flourished from the 1900s through the early 1940s. The style encompasses architecture, fashion, industrial design, fine and decorative art.

While the origins of Art Deco were primarily European, its impact spread all over the globe, finding an enthusiastic home in America.

The movement also embraced a new timeless globalism, abstracting from earlier movements and drawing inspiration from the world. Designers pulled from many ethnic influences including African, Mayan, Asian, Latin, and Egyptian - particularly after the discovery of King Tutankhamen’s tomb in 1923.

Designers adapted Art Deco to new materials like aluminum, bakelite, fiberglass, and neon to create a streamlined 20th Century look. The style suggests speed, power, and opulence, and includes geometric patterns, streamlined shapes, and heroic human forms.

Art Deco expresses a fundamental belief in progress, human improvement, futurism, and the beneficial relationship between man and machine.

Art Deco is a marvelously modern, glamorous, not-so-remote part of American History.

The year is 1925. The most creative minds in the world are in Paris as the City of Light hosts the World’s Fair showcasing the culmination of it’s Style Moderne. Poet André Breton has just penned the Surrealist Manifest. American dancer Josephine Baker and musician Sidney Bechet have brought Jazz music and dance from America. Designer Coco Chanel, author Ernest Hemingway and artist Pablo Picasso and countless others are also there as The “Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes”, or more familiarly, The Art Deco Exposition, launches a new era.

The Art Deco movement embraced elegance, glamour, simplified functionality, and celebrated modern materials and methods of construction. Additionally, Art Deco borrowed from Germany’s Bauhaus school by seeking to design complete works that borrowed from all the arts. Linear symmetry and mechanized precision replaced the flowing organic curves of the previous art nouveau movement.

Asian and South American forms, as well as the astonishing recent discovery of Egypt’s great tombs.

In Europe the Art Deco movement stayed largely focused on the Arts, while in America, the movement moved quickly into the realm of architecture.


Art Deco

The Art Deco movement quickly jumped to American in the 1920s and held steadfast until World War II. As many cities, New York, Chicago, Detroit, and Miami among others, were expanding rapidly at the time, many iconic buildings sprang up across the country.

Not to be outdone, America embraced Art Deco with gusto, and a unique style of American Art Deco emerged. Even in the uncertain economic times, the style survived Prohibition, the catastrophic 1929 Wall Street Crash and the Great Depression. It epitomized the age of the flapper, of jazz, Hollywood glamour and conspicuous consumption. In short, it was adopted as a thoroughly modern style for a thoroughly modern country. Deco became the style of the new pleasure palaces, cinemas, cruise ships, restaurants, bars and garages.

You can see the Rockafeller building, Chrysler building (image to right), Empire State building and Peery's Egyptian Theater in Ogden Utah just to name a few.

Jewelry in the Art Deco style is famed for its beauty. It precedes the Edwardian Era. For jewelry novices, it can be difficult to tell the difference between the two eras since both incorporate platinum and antique diamonds. However, Art Deco design differs from Edwardian design in that it is more geometric and symmetrical. Where the Edwardian turn of the century jewelry was very nature inspired, light, and flowy, Art Deco design incorporates more geometric shapes, less free space, and a more industrial feel.

Lalique Green Scarab Necklace Gold and formed glass

Gold, Enamel, Diamonds,Tortoiseshell Lalique 1902 hair comb

Spectacular Lalique Necklace Gold, enamel, opals, amethyst 1898

Calibre cut stones are such an important part of Art Deco jewelry design. Calibre cut stones are custom

gemstones that are cut specifically to fit into a jewelry design. They are tightly spaced together against other stones or metal and have quite the impact on the overall design.

Art Deco diamond, sapphire and platinum plaque ring, 1925 creator unknown

Costume and clothing design was deeply saturated with the Orient and Far East.

Leon Bakst designed the spectacular decor and costumes for Michel Fokine’s ballet Cléopâtre (1909; originally named Une Nuit d’Égypte). It was the acknowledged highlight of the evening. This production—with its innovations in dress and emphasis on the Oriental, the violent, and the sensual—provided the template for future Ballets Russes extravaganzas, and Bakst therewith became the company’s main set designer. He followed up this success with another, providing stage and set designs for the wildly popular Le Carnaval and the ballet Schéhèrazade (both 1910). The latter is generally considered one of the definitive works of the Ballets Russes. Its opulence of colour and texture in stage set and costumes provided powerful support to its sensational story. Bakst further designed decor and costumes for Le Spectre de la rose and Narcisse (both 1911) and for L’Après-midi d’un faune and Daphnis et Chloé (both 1912), and he designed costumes only for Les Papillons (1912) and La Legende de Joseph (1914). Throughout this period, he worked with other companies and in other media as well.

Nijinski in the costume designs of Leon Bakst for the Ballets Russes,

Bakst Cleopatra design

Bakst Scheherezad design

Early 20th Century: Paul Poiret, known in America as “The King of Fashion.” In Paris, he was simply Le Magnifique, after Süleyman the Magnificent, a suitable soubriquet for a couturier who, alongside the all-pervasive influence of Sergei Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes, employed the language of Orientalism to develop the romantic and theatrical possibilities of clothing. Like his artistic confrere Léon Bakst, Poiret’s exoticized tendencies were expressed through his use of vivid color coordinations and enigmatic silhouettes such as his iconic “lampshade” tunic and his “harem” trousers, or pantaloons.

in 1910 Diaghilev's Russian dance company, Ballets Russes, performed Scherezad in Paris—reigniting the taste for orientalism in Europe with its exotic sets and costumes. As this ensemble illustrates, Poiret excelled in recontextualizing western dress with fantastical eastern influence. He was also a maverick modernist in creating a stir, taking promotion of his inventive ensembles to new levels with his infamous spectaculars. This fancy-dress ensemble was made for and worn to Poiret's 1002nd Night party in 1911, which was designed and organized to promote his new creations in the full splendor and glamour of the orientalist trend.

Paul Poiret Oriental Fancy Dress Costume 1911

Paul Poiret, evening dress with Egyptian-style motifs, 1923

Difficult to confirm but the fabric appears to be Assuit.

Actress Gloria Swanson 1921

Luxurious fabrics, ornate beading and embellishments and imported fabrics were sought after by ladies.

Including Assuit Tulle Bi Telli fabric. Drop by my Assuit blog page to see and read more about it.

Actress Clara bow in Assuit gown "My Lady of Whims", 1925

The Art Deco style appeared early in the graphic arts, in the years just before World War I. It appeared in posters across the globe.

The illustrations of Georges Barbier, 1918

The Black Panther beauty 1914

The Flighty Bird 1918

Cortege 1920

and Georges Lepape Designs

Vogue cover 1928

Vanity Fair Cover 1919

Besides clothing, architecture, magazines and art all having that New Art Deco Look and feel music and dance are a big deal for entertainment,

Big bands playing Jazz and Swing are the music and dance styles of the roaring twenties later moving into the Flapper era.

It was not just for the elite. Here is a short video to demonstrate the style at the time.

And then there was Erte, the godfather of Art Deco, with costume jewelry, bronze sculptures and images that inspired the the 1920's

Erte Design for the Folies Bergere

Cleopatra style

Carmel Meyers in Erte Costume for Ben Hur

And the elegant statue version below

Here we see another classic Art Deco statue by Erte Sisters & Sisterhood

Erte Jewel costume design set for the Folies Bergere

Erté 1892 -1990 is perhaps most famous for his elegant fashion designs which capture the art deco period in which he worked. One of his earliest successes was designing apparel for the French dancer Gaby Deslys who died in 1920. He worked for Paul Poiret from 1913-1914. His delicate figures and sophisticated, glamorous designs are instantly recognizable, and his ideas and art still influence fashion into the 21st century. His costumes, programed designs, and sets were featured in the Ziegfeld Follies of 1923, many productions of the Folies Bergère, Bal Tabarin, Théâtre Fémina, Le Lido, and George White's Scandals. On Broadway, the celebrated French chanteuse Irène Bordoni wore Erté's designs

By the 1930s, the industrial revolution had begun and mass production meant that everyone could live in the deco style. Travel became popular. African safaris were all the rage and animal skins, ivory, mother of pearl and tortoiseshell began to appear in the home.

After Tutankhamen's tomb was discovered, Egyptian pyramids and sphinxes adorned everything.

  • geometric and angular shapes

  • chrome, glass, shiny fabrics, mirrors and mirror tiles

  • stylised images of aeroplanes, cars, cruise liners, skyscrapers

  • nature motifs - shells, sunrises, flowers

  • theatrical contrasts - highly polished wood and glossy black lacquer mixed with satin and furs

  • art nouveau - deco kept the nature motifs of its predecessor but discarded its flowing organic shapes and pastels for bolder materials and colors such as chrome and black

  • cubism -painters such as Picasso were experimenting with space, angles and geometry

  • early Hollywood - the glamorous world of the silver screen filtered through to design using shiny fabrics, subdued lighting, and mirrors. Cocktail cabinets and smoking paraphernalia became highly fashionable

  • Eileen Gray - furniture

  • Raymond Templier - jewellery

  • Clarice Cliff - china

  • René Lalique - glass and jewellery

  • Paul Poiret - Clothiers

At the time
  • 1912 RMS Titanic sails

  • 1922 Tutankhamun's tomb is discovered

  • 1922 Ulysses by James Joyce is published

  • 1931 Empire State Building is completed

  • Film stars - Greta Garbo, Marlene Dietrich, Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire, Valentino, Theda Bara,

  • The charleston and tango are the latest dance crazes, jazz is born and the singer Josephine Baker thrills Paris

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