One of the most common questions I’m asked is: What is Art Deco Style?
In essence, Art Deco is a modern interpretation of the design style that came before it, Art Nouveau. So it may be useful to define it by comparing it to Art Nouveau.
Art Nouveau came into being as a response to the practicality of the Industrial Revolution. In the late 18th and early 19th centuries, society was mainly occupied with the production of consumer goods. Less attention was focused on beauty.
If something was not functional and practical, it was basically worthless, regardless of how much enjoyment it provided. However, whenever you focus on one aspect of something at the expense of another, the other comes back stronger than ever! And that certainly was the case with Art Nouveau.
Artists began creating works of art that were extremely stylized and solely ornamental. Attention began to move away from the lifeless factories to the lively, vibrant natural environment. Artists started to integrate naturalistic symbols into their artwork – dragonflies, insects, flowers, birds, flowing water, etc.
Curved edges and scrolls became extremely fashionable as they evoked a natural, more pure feeling. Furthermore, the spotlight was back on beauty and ornament. Everything from jewelry to fashion to furniture was embellished – practicality was out and beauty was back in vogue!
Art Nouveau to Art Deco
The Deco movement followed in Art Nouveau’s tracks in that it also revered beauty, but it’s interpretation of it was slightly more ‘modern’. The Machine Age was in full swing at this time and utility became an important requirement again. The scroll-like, natural symbols of Nouveau were substituted for angular, geometric symbols like zigzags and chevrons. Utility was still significant, but not at the cost of ornament and beauty.
Art Deco Style
Deco style is sleek and symmetrical. Geometric shapes and bold bright colours like yellow, purple, ruby and turquoise are the epitome of this glamorous and elegant style.
Common household objects, jewelry, buildings, etc. were all embellished with sharp, angular patterns like sunbursts, pyramids and zigzags. Means of transport began to take on a more sleek, aerodynamic look.
Glass, lacquered wood and shiny metals were used to achieve that modern aesthetic. The strong economy of the Roaring Twenties allowed for the liberal use of luxurious materials, such as diamonds and gold in jewelry, and ebony and ivory in furniture.
Art Deco Style Definition
Art Deco Style is both a practical AND ornamental artistic style that surfaced in the early 19th Century and influenced all types of artistic design.