Art Deco

Rene Lalique Suzanne

Taking its name from the Paris Exposition Internationale des Arts Decoratifs of 1925, Art Deco is a style associated with the late 1920s and early 1930s with emphasis on richly-coloured and geometric pattern, new materials and styles and a decorative approach to modernism.

Pictured right: ‘Suzanne’ an Opalescent Glass Figure, design 1925 modelled as a female nude, her outstretched arms draped with flowing fabric 22.5cm high, moulded ‘R.Lalique’. Sold at Bonhams, London Nov 2006 for £5,500 

Designers that typify the era include Rene Lalique, Erté, Clarice Cliff, Josef Lorenzl, Noke, William Moorcroft, Susie Cooper, Charlotte Rhead, and Raymond Templier. The art deco style influenced furniture, glass, mirrors, pictures, architecture, jewellery, lighting, lamps, ceramics, figurines, art and more.

Its origins begin in elements of Art Nouveau, particularly the formal geometry, Cubism and abstract art, primitivism, modernist architecture, Russian revolutionary art, jazz music, American films, especially musicals, and even modern methods of transport.

The period can be divided into two main phases. The first is colourful, dramatic, abstract and angular, with a traditional use of materials, and is seen at its best in ceramics, textiles, and graphics.

Often garish and abrasive in its extreme approach to modernist decoration, this phase is epitomised by the pottery of Clarice Cliff, by the fashions of the period (Erte), and by an extreme use of geometry and symbols such as the ziggurat and the lightning flash.

The second, later phase, associated more with the 1930s, reflects a cooler, more elegant approach to modern design, with pastel and ice-cream colours, rounded forms and an understanding of modernism that is more than purely decorative. Powerfully inspirational were Hollywood styles and the streamlined shapes of ships, trains and planes were applied to objects as diverse as cinemas, teapots and radios.

Features & Articles