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What was the Art Deco style originally known as?

Style Moderne
Streamlined Moderne
Arte Moderne.
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Art Deco Collectibles: Fashionable Objets from the Jazz Age
by Rodney Capstick-Dale &
Diana Capstick-Dale

In the 1920s and 1930s the Art Deco style influenced everything from art and architecture, interiors and furnishings, automobiles and boats to the small, personal objects that were part of everyday life: Featuring high-quality photography and vintage illustrations and ephemera, this book brings these objects to life in exquisite detail for the first time. The objects in this themed book encompass the Deco style at its most alluring, as well as the modernity, excitement, and social revolution of the Jazz Age.

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The Story of Art Deco

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French Art Deco Geometric Brooch

LATEST ANTIQUES ARTICLE______________________________

Art Deco a lá Francaise
by Bob Brooke


Art Deco emerged in Paris as a luxurious design style prior to World War I. But it wasn’t until after the war in the 1920s that Modernism appeared throughout Europe. Until the art world coined the name Art Deco in 1966, designers referred to the style as Arte Moderne which is French for Modern Art.

The furniture of Art Nouveau, the style in vogue at the beginning of the 20th century, was a commercial failure. The intricate inlays and carvings made it too expensive for all except the very wealthy. Concerned by competitive advances in design and manufacturing made in Germany and Austria in the early 20th century, French designers realized they could rejuvenate the French furniture industry by producing luxurious looking pieces that a greater number of people could afford.

How It All Began
The founding in 1901 of the Société des Artistes Décorateurs —the Society of Artist-Decorators—a professional designers' association, marked the appearance of new standards for French design and production. Each year the association held exhibitions in which their members exhibited their work. In 1912, the French Government decided to sponsor an international exhibition of decorative arts to promote French design. However, they had to postpone the exhibition, originally scheduled for 1915, until after World War I.

Set at the Trocadero in Paris, near the Eiffel Tower, La Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes (International Exhibition of Modern and Industrial Decorative Arts), held finally in 1925, was a massive trade fair that dazzled more than 16 million visitors during its seven-month run. On exhibit was everything from architecture and interior design to jewelry and perfumes, all intended to promote French luxury items. Art Deco had already become an international style before the exposition.

Art Deco combined the traditional quality and luxury of French furniture with the good taste of Classicism and the exoticism of far-off lands. Many designers used sumptuous, expensive materials like exotic hardwoods, ivory, and lacquer combined with geometric forms and luxurious fabrics to provide plush comfort. Motifs like Chinese fretwork, African textile patterns, and Central American ziggurats provided designers with the exotic designs to play with to create a fresh, modern look. They depicted natural motifs as graceful and highly stylized. The use of animal skins, horn, and ivory accents from French colonies in Africa gave pieces an exotic appeal.

Early Art Deco furniture introduced sleek, rounded corners, and futuristic styling. Seating often curved slightly inward, suggesting intimacy and sensuousness. Geometric designs and patterns often provided a counterpoint to the soft rounded lines of classic Art Deco furniture. Designers often incorporated fan motifs using layered triangles, and circular designs were common.

French Art Deco Furniture

French Art Deco furniture featured elegant lines and often had ornamentation applied to its surface. It could be utilitarian or purely ornamental, conceived only for its decorative value. It was the look that was important to many French designers, not the use or comfort of a piece. Even today, some pieces look as if their designers intended them to remain on display in a store window and not be used at all. At times it seemed as though the designers and their patrons were trying to escape the dismal reality of daily life at that time.

The concept behind French Art Deco furniture was one of luxury and comfort using rich wood and textural elements. Finishes were shiny or glossy. Wood was heavily lacquered or enameled and polished to a high sheen. But along with this came a desire for functionalism, refinement, and elegance.

French designers preferred dark tropical woods. Ebony was the wood of choice. Although expensive, designers used it to make entire sections of furniture, such as legs, drawers, and the carcase. Its heavy use led to a shortage, and necessitating the use of ebony veneers.

Other exotic veneers included Macassar ebony, indigenous to Indonesia, as well as palmwood, Brazilian jacaranda, and zebrawood. Apart from these, designers employed more unusual woods, such as amaranth, amboyna, mahogany, violet wood, and sycamore, often juxtaposed with burled wood to set off their color.

Ivory was the most frequently used furniture mount and decorative accoutrement. Furniture designers used it to accent shapes and as drawer pulls and sabots. Prior to World War I, Asian lacquer work experienced a revival in France. The process required 22-stages. Marble replaced wood for tabletops, where designers used it together with cast iron. They also used tortoiseshell inlay as a decorative accent.

Art Deco furniture designers often laid shagreen, snakeskin, galuchat—treated and dyed sharkskin—and ponyskin or cow skin on top of a dressing table or desktop and to upholster chairs and seats. Additionally, designers sometimes used fur on chairs and divans. Although they rarely used straw marquetry, they still considered it an Art Deco material. Furniture makers first soaked the straws, then split and ironed them, before arranging them in a geometric pattern. They also used fabrics,, such as luxurious silks.

As the French Art Deco style matured, designers used metals such as steel, copper, and wrought/cast iron to create their pieces. Many 1920s and 1930s furniture designers acknowledge Michael Thonet’s 19th-century bentwood prototypes as inspiration in metal’s use. The natural evolution of the Art Deco trend, in addition to the global economic crisis in the 1920s and 1930s, demanded the use of less valuable materials. In this case, metal fit the bill. It was relatively inexpensive and could easily be used in mass production which allowed the middle class a higher level of accessibility to luxurious Art Deco furniture.

Fabric choices enhanced the feeling of luxury and opulence in Art Deco furniture. Designers used bold geometric, animal, or exaggerated floral prints in soft, sumptuous materials to contrast and compliment the sleek styling.

Sometimes jewelers applied ornamentation was straightforwardly applied to the surface of an object, like a decorative skin. At other times, potentially utilitarian designs—bowls, plates, vases, even furniture—were in and of themselves purely ornamental, not intended for practical use but rather conceived for their decorative value alone, exploiting the singular beauty of form or material.

French Art Deco reflected the general optimism and carefree mood that swept Europe following World War I. Sunbursts and chevrons represented hope and prosperity. They also employed vivid colors in paint and upholstery. Both furniture and textiles tended to use decorative designs that exhibited a strong painterly quality reminiscent of Impressionist, and post-Impressionist, Fauve, and Cubist techniques.

The Most Popular Types Of Art Deco Furniture
Art Deco tables were crisply geometric in profile and light in appearance. Legs were vertical or splayed and occasionally carved. Friezes were wide and decorated. Many had marble tops. Console tables sometimes had richly worked cast iron legs and friezes. Low tables came into vogue. Dining tables had a single massive central pillar instead of legs.

Art Deco desks tended to be large without stretchers. Furniture manufacturers frequently covered desktops with a type of leather, veneered friezes, and made lock plates and handles from copper, silver, or bronze.

Art Deco armoires were richly decorated and often based on Louis XVI or Restoration models. They featured large pediments enriched with marquetry, gilt bronze, or silver. Furniture makers often dressed the door panels in leather or decorated them in wood or ivory marquetry. The upper half of the interior had shelves and drawers while the lower part had large drawers, and the inner surfaces of the doors had fitted mirrors.

Art Deco psyché mirrors often doubled as a dresser and commonly displayed a tall oval mirror framed in the same wood as the rest of the piece. Pieces regularly featured two low, small chests of drawers that supported a central shelf. Legs were short, straight, and tapered. Ornamentation was discreet.

Art Deco beds generally had head and foot boards of unequal height, which were rounded or scrolled outward. Designers preferred not to use moldings and often constructed beds as built-ins.

The cocktail cabinet, constructed to hold premium liquors, ingredients, glasswares, and mixing tools, first appeared during the Art Deco period. In the early part of the 20th century, many of the beloved cocktails known today first appeared in high-end Parisian establishments such as the Ritz, Harry’s New York Bar, and the Chatham, all of which drew in rich, cultured crowds. The cocktail cabinet emphasized the refinement of the epoque as it enabled cultured persons to provide their guests with the luxurious experience of dining out in their own home.

The enormous commercial success of Art Deco furniture ensured that designers and manufacturers throughout Europe would continue to promote the style well into the 1930s. Controlled, rounded lines characterize early Art Deco, but the look grew slimmer, sleeker, and less decorated over time. Furniture design became soberer, and materials of lesser quality were used.

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