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The Decadence of the Art Deco Era

The Decadence of the Art Deco Era
  • Arts of the World : Comparative Art Stud... (by )
  • Tales of the jazz age (by )
  • Nelson Rockefeller a Biography (by )
  • Planning Your Vacation in Florida: Miami... (by )
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Bold geometrics, simplistic shapes, shiny chrome, glass, and mirrors made up the aesthetics of the Art Deco movement. Fusing craftsmanship with the modernist style that emerged from the Machine Age, Art Deco celebrated a “streamlined” look.

This style of decorative arts and architecture debuted in France before World War I, but prospered in other parts of the world between the 1920s and 1940s. Its name arose from the International Exhibition of Modern Decorative and Industrial Arts in Paris in 1925. Its elegant style influenced architecture, interior design, painting, sculpture, ceramics, fashion, and jewelry. 

Art nouveau (nature motifs), cubism, and Hollywood glamour influenced it. The period was one of luxury and exuberance, as well as technological and social progress. F. Scott Fitzgerald captures the sophistication of this era in The Great Gatsby.

Luxe materials included satin, fur, chrome, silver, and rock crystal as well as glossy black lacquer, polished wood, and plastics such as Bakelite.

Fitzgerald also presents the gracefulness of the Art Deco movement in Tales of the Jazz Age. He writes, 

As they came closer, John saw that it was the tail-light of an immense automobile, larger and more magnificent than any he had ever seen. Its body was of gleaming metal richer than nickel and lighter than silver, and the hubs of the wheels were studded with iridescent geometric figures of green and yellow—John did not dare to guess whether they were glass or jewel. (p. 146)

Manhattan’s iconic Rockefeller Center, Chrysler Building (part of this building was inspired by radiator caps on Chrysler cars), and Empire State Building are examples of Art Deco architecture. 
In Nelson Rockefeller, A Biography, author Joe Alex Morris writes, 

At the time, Mr. Rockefeller, Jr. was deep in the work of building Rockefeller Center, the great complex of skyscrapers that was to rise in the heart of New York City between Fifth and Sixth avenues and to become a world-famous tourist attraction. (p. 93) 

The area is home to a vast collection of art deco motifs and sculptures.

The Art Deco style is also prevalent in Miami’s colorful South Beach area, which has an Art Deco historic district. In Planning Your Vacation in Florida: Miami and Dade County Including Miami Beach and Coral Gables, the authors write, “The one structure of unusual design, the rambling, many turreted Halcyon Hotel, once known as the White Palace, was demolished to make way for the Alfred I. DuPont building, a streamlined skyscraper completed in 1939” (p. 97). This Art Deco-style building was later designated a national historic landmark. 

During this era, designers created fine glass and other decorative objects to complement the distinctive architecture of the time. Prominent designers of the era include Eliel Saarinen (architecture); Emile Jacques Ruhlmann and Maurice Dufrène (furniture designers); Erte and Paul Poiret (fashion designers); and Rene Lalique (glass and jewelry design). Art Deco continues to inspire modern-day designers such as Badgley Mischka and Monique Lhuillier and Sophia Forero. 

“The filigree work and geometry of the Art Deco era is timeless,” says Forero. 

By Regina Molaro

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