Monday, 30 September 2013


Our Great Gatsby night out was so much fun!

After seeing all the beautiful flapper dresses and hearing all the jazz music, I was feeling a lot of love for the Roaring Twenties and have dug a little deeper to find out more about the Art Deco era.

Art Deco as an entity is falsely believed by many to have started at the International exposition of modern industrial and decorative arts which was held in Paris in 1925. However, it had been around for a couple of decades before then, starting around 1910 in Paris, when Art Nouveau began to lose popularity as it became mainstream. Art Deco then emerged, as an exclusive, luxurious style. At this time, it was little known outside of France. The expo was really the defining moment of Art Deco.This is where the movement would later get its name.

In this promotional poster you can see elements of the style. The font is crisp, showing an elegant yet simple style to the machine age. Yet on the other hand, the image is a woodblock print, emphasising the importance of luxurious handcraft to the Art Deco era. The Classical influence is clear with the man in the toga. Art Deco usually has a controlled reference to nature.

After the Great War, the twenties saw significant changes in lifestyle and culture. There was the introduction of telephones, electricity and motion pictures that accelerated consumer demand and aspirations. Along with the commercial development of luxury transportation, such as aeroplanes, cars, trains and ocean liners.With this new age of luxury transportation, people had a new found interest in travel.

French Colonialism, which in this era was at its height, exposed designers to new cultures and materials. France had large holdings in North and West Africa and South Asia and there were many influences from these ‘exotic’ lands.

In France, Art Deco combined the quality and luxury of French furniture tradition with the good taste of their classic style. Many designers were able to use expensive materials from these distant, pre-industrial places, such as exotic woods, lacquer and ivory in order to update their more traditional furniture. We can see the influences from Africa and Asia in the patterns and motifs used and this gave their designs a new modern look. These techniques along with the mixed use of bizarre materials like -
Shark skin and zebra skin made the Art Deco design highly sought after.

This cabinet references traditional forms of French furniture. But is inlaid with ivory, a reference to (and product of) the elephants of exotic Africa, where France had important colonies.The inlay forms a Classical urn holding cut flowers — again it's stylised and controlled nature as opposed to the wavy vines of the Art Nouveau era. Like much Art Deco furniture, this is low to the ground, with elegant lines.

The new style palette reflected a shift to light, neutral shades, with metallic undertones of silver and gold, added to sand, grey, beige, and peach. Exotic bold pastel accents were an iconic colour trait of the era.

Art Deco continued to sweep over Europe during the late twenties and early thirties. When it arrived in America, it became an instant hit. However, it was translated into more mass-produced, everyday goods and very much influenced by the times and what was happening in America.

America, was now a place dominated by a desire for speed, luxury and opulence. It was nicknamed the roaring twenties. The movie industry skyrocketed. “The Golden Age” and the Hollywood stars that graced our screens radiated with glamour and extravagance. This translated into our homes.

The 18th Amendment had banned the sale, transportation and manufacturing of alcohol, this resulting in a huge increase of gang activity, Al Capone being the most famous gangster of this time. It was the gangsters who dominated various cities and provided this commodity with their ‘speakeasies’, which are hidden sections of the establishments that illegally sold alcohol. Jazz music and many of the ‘speakeasies’ that played it became widely popular.

There was also significant change for woman, the 19th Amendment was lifted and they were given the right to vote. Woman then began to pursue careers and ladies fashion was redefined by the flappers.

Art Deco in the US was more focused on the efficiency of accessibility, mass production and the machine age. American Art Deco products had a more industrial feel. The modern marvels of automobiles, speedboats and skyscrapers referenced the geometric forms such as – spheres, polygons, rectangles, trapezoids, zigzags, chevrons, and sunburst motifs.

The world seemed to take on the theme when erecting new buildings. Architects across the globe designed buildings based on geometric shapes, and modern machine made materials like aluminium, stainless steel, Bakelite and chrome, These shapes manifesting themselves famously in the construction of the Chrysler Building, the tallest building in the world at its time.

By the thirties, Art Deco was used extensively for almost everything. It was even used for structures like churches, bridges and even a French ocean liner, the Normandie, the most luxurious ocean liner ever made.

Her interiors were decorated in Art Deco style, featuring a first-class dining room, longer than the Hall of Mirrors at (VER SI) Versailles. It was three decks high, and outfitted with endless crystal panels and chandeliersThe Normandie made her maiden voyage in 1935 with many aristocrats and celebrities on board, but she was soon left to idle in New York harbor because she was so costly to operate.

Just a few years later, World War II began. This war and the recession of the late 1930's saw the demise of Art Deco. To some, it was now being derided as vulgar. To others, it represented an image of luxury that was no longer in keeping with people’s dire financial situations. To those, who could still afford it, the sense of mass production was no longer appealing. 

Interestingly, the term Art Deco itself was not used until Bevis Hillier published his book entitled "Art Deco of the 20's and 30's" in 1968. This is when it made somewhat of a comeback in the sixties before making a bigger comeback in the eighties.

And with the recent release of Baz Lehrmann's, The Great Gatsby, staring Leonardo Di Caprio and Cary Mulligan. Art Deco is very much on trend again.


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