Art Deco was an international style of decoration that came about in 1918 and flowed off in 1939. It was present in fashion, interiors, architecture, ceramics and industrial design. It was named after the 1925 World’s fair in Paris: – Exposition Internationale des Arts Decoratifs et industriels Modernes which translates as International gallery of decorative art and modern industry. The style of Art Deco featured strong vibrant colours using floral motifs like that of Charles Ren?e Mackintosh, a Scottish architect, painter and designer, who stripped art Nouveau design of delicate curves and led the way to cleaner lines. In graphic design Art Deco displayed strong emphasis on geometric shapes and patterns and the typefaces of the period became more legible and were in stark contrast to Art Nouveau. However not all art of this period followed this contemporary style. The name ‘Art Deco’ has an obviously similarity to Art Nouveau, further evidence that one is a continuation of the other. Art Deco is associated with the 20s where it originated but was a developing style, reaching its peak in the 30s and some critics argue that it never really ended or was simply never a specific movement.
Art Deco drew inspiration from sources such as Art Nouveau, cubism, the Russian Ballet, American Indian art and the Bauhaus. The Bauhaus was established by Walter Gropius in Germany following the war and followed the idea that ‘form follows function’ therefore everything they produced was functional before being decorative. In Italy, a poet called Marinetti led the futurist movement, publishing manifestos in ‘high-flown rhetoric’. Unlike the Bauhaus, fashion stylists, designers and craftsmen were only interested in taste and style as apposed to practicality. Fashion designers were creating ‘ready-to-wear’ dresses for the post war women, which was available due to mass-production and improved communication. The only similarity between Art Deco and the Bauhaus was the symmetry rectilinear shapes and designs. However for Art Deco this was not about being functional but purely about the ability to re-produce, adapting design to the requirements of mass-production. It responded to the demands of the machine and of new materials such as plastics, fero-concrete and vita-glass. The aim was to bring industry and art together which in the past had conflicted with each other.
Many important designs of Art Deco design can be seen in factories and buildings, for example the Hoover building just outside of London. During the 1920s, Paris led the way of fashion which design took much of its inspiration from. After the war, fashion changed in a dramatic way; bold colours were in and the curves of the Art Nouveau period were left behind.
Art Nouveau was an Arts and Crafts movement which relied on the delicacy of hand-made products finished to a high standard; Art Deco used the newest possible machinery which responded to the lack of money post war. It was the time of supply and demand, and new fortunes acquired during the war. The re-distribution of wealth changed the tastes of society. As women were slowly becoming part of the working class, they wanted homes that were easy to run and as space was limited they wanted to effectively use all the space they had. The war generation were desperate for colour and excitement and with this the swing era was born.
America was hit by the Wall Street Crash of 1929, sending the world into depression. This was the ultimate divide between the 20s and 30s. The 30’s were about politics, Wyndham Lewis observed: ‘no one in 1937 can help being other than political. We are in politics up to our necks.’ This account suggests a move into art of a political awareness, which is present in Graphic design of the time. ‘This was a time when engineers were studying art’.
The Twenties and thirties were a period of speed and travel. People were flying around the world, improved communications meant new markets and the need to advertise became very important.
Oriental influence was still present during the 20s and Egyptian art influenced design in a big way after the opening of Tutenkamen’s tomb in 1922. Furniture designers such as Pierre Legrain were making chairs like that of Egyptian thrones, jewellery used similar colours to that of the Egyptians but the most influenced were cinemas for their pyramid shapes, elaborate colours, and Ziggurat which moved into the deigns of buildings.
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