Art Deco: 1920 – 1940

The term Art déco is the abbreviation of Arts Décoratifs, and means something like ” ornamental arts”. The word comes from the French and describes a period in the history of design, which can be classified chronologically approximately in the years 1920-1940.

Art déco includes areas such as  furniture, architecture, clothing fashion, vehicles and other articles of daily life.

Art Deco is a modern art style that aesthetically attempted and successfully replaced the Art Nouveau style while influencing both architecture and culture as a whole. Unlike the fine arts of painting and sculpture, this style tries to combine different functional objects with artistic touches. Before World War II began in Europe, it made its first appearance in France, covering virtually everything that could be included in a design such as jewelry, interiors, buildings, pop culture, and even dull objects like your clock, among other household appliances. With its broad-based reach, something that’s rare to find in a design trend, the style remains popular even today ever since its expedition in the 20th century.

What’s so unique about this style?

Art Deco started as a refined rendition of 19th-century art deco but soon evolved into a uniquely distinct style. It is stylistically rich and diverse with its use of geometric shapes, elements of symmetry, and other aspects specifically typified by its specific artistic framework. This template is highly playful, precise, and pure, with an intricate application of color for emphasis.

Founded in France and brought in more styles by the other countries in Europe, it flourished during the early 20th century with many designers weaving a few of their innovative ideas. The Art Deco style was set forth by Victor Horta, who had a significant influence on the style through his luxurious pipe organ (called Organesque) commissioned for the Grand Palais in Paris. Since then, it was just taken over by many other prominent designers, mainly in France and Belgium, such as Paul Iribe, who loved French and Belgian style. Then came Art Deco architect Alphonse Mucha, who incorporated an element of the Art Nouveau with his artistic flair into the style to give it a few ornate details.

The epoch Art Deco falls in the time of the classical modern age.

It combines elegant forms with high-quality materials with high colour brilliance and special emphasis on the respective stylistic theme. A characteristic feature of the Art Deco period is the two-dimensional stylized depiction of floral elements. Thereby any concept of “naturalness” is missing. This thus conveys, as it were, to the respective object the typical artistic character of the Art Deco epoch. The Art Deco style finds its origin in the foundation of the so-called Wiener Werkstätte, which goes back to the artists Josef Hoffmann and Koloman Moser as well as Fritz Wärndorfer. The three artists were in turn influenced by the so-called English and Scottish style around Charles Rennie Mackintosh, Mackay-Hugh Baillie-Scott and Charles Robert Ashbee.

The center of the Art Deco movement was the French capital, Paris, where an exhibition called “Exposition internationale des Arts Décoratifs et industriels modernes” was held in 1925. The title of the exhibition was later echoed in the abbreviation “Art Deco”. The artists took the inspiration for the Parisian style of Art Deco from personalities such as Henri Matisse (colors), Georges Braqu

, Pablo Picasso (cubism) and Umberto Boccioni (technique). The ideas taken then later characterized the Art Deco features. Among other things, the style of Art Deco was later introduced to the USA by Paul Iribe. There the style elements found themselves among other things in the film, in the musical and also in the architecture again. But also Art Deco furniture established itself in the USA.

Art Deco in architecture

Since the style of Art Deco, among other things, also shaped the concept of architecture of the years 1920-1940, it is important to explain it also in connection with, for example, furniture in the Art Deco style. This is true because furniture, and in particular Art Deco antiques, in many cases, in conjunction with the corresponding architecture, symbolize a kind of complete ensemble of the Art Deco style. Particularly characteristic of a complete city in the style of Art Deco is the French city of Reims. This was rebuilt in the 1920s after almost complete destruction in the First World War. In the USA, the Art Deco district in Miami Beach is particularly noteworthy from an architectural point of view. In Berlin, the Renaissance Theater represents the only completely preserved theater in Europe designed in the Art Deco style. The Art Deco style ended at about the same time as the beginning of the Second World War.

The style epoch as a section in the museum

The era can still be experienced today in numerous museums. For example, the Bröhan Museum in Berlin presents porcelain, glass, ceramics and metalwork as well as furniture from the Art Deco and Art Nouveau periods. The Grassi Museum für angewandte Kunst in Leipzig also presents the Art Deco era in its own department. In the case of the Grassi Museum, there is the additional fact that the building itself was built in the Art Deco style.

Furniture in Art Deco style

In the area of furniture, Hoffmann’s club sofas from 1910 and 1914 are particularly noteworthy. But also particularly striking tubular steel armchairs from the 1930s characterize the style epoch of Art Deco in the field of furniture making. In this case, the tubular steel armchairs are made of chromed metal, black lacquered wood for the backrest and imitation leather for the cover. Also floor lamps in the style of Art Deco symbolize the noble choice of materials and at the same time use and combination of different materials for the field of furniture making.

If one looks at the individual pieces of Art Deco furniture, it is noticeable that a clear stylistic feature or a certain style-forming characterization is missing. In other epochs, a certain style can be clearly assigned on the basis of an underlying characteristic. In the case of Art Deco, and here in particular in the area of furniture construction, the only characteristic is the combination of elegant variety of forms, high quality of materials and the special colorfulness. The main characteristic of Art Deco, compared to earlier eras, is also for the field of Art Deco furniture industrial production.