Art Deco can be described as "an assertively modern style that ran to symmetry rather than asymmetry, and to the rectilinear rather than the curvilinear; it responded to the demands of the machine and of new material and the requirements of mass production".
This definition of the Art Deco visual art design made by the historian Bevis Hillier combines all the characteristics of the historical period in which Art Deco was born: the wish of luxury, the wish of social and technological progress, energy and dynamism given by geometric shapes, symmetrical patterns and sunburst motifs that give the impression of a moving object, of the speed and that fit perfectly to the wish of modernity and industrialization which feature the 1920s.
The art deco style represents a natural evolution of the “Art Nouveau” movement that could be found in France 10 years before. This artistic movement was created in Paris in 1910 by the fashion designer Paul Poiret and gradually spread all over other European countries with different names such as: "Modern style" in Great Britain, "Jugendstil" in Germany, "Secession" in Austria, "Liberty” or “stile floreale" in Italy and "Modernismo" in Spain.
Even if the Art Deco was created in 1910, the style gained most of its popularity between year 1925 and 1939. In fact this style is also known as Style 1925, as its name generated after an important event such as the Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes (the International Exposition of Modern Industrial and Decorative Arts) which took place in Paris from April to October 1925.
Even if the Parisian Expo had many exhibitors coming from all over the world the French style, characterised by its sophistication, had no rivals in furniture design, fashion and accessories. Paris was, at that time, the international center of good taste and it is no surprise that international designer were much inspired after visiting the exposition. They exported this all over the world and it was soon adopted by the designers to express their wish of modernity and socio-economic progress.
In fact, the years between the end of the Great War and 1929 (when the Wall Street Crash occurred and caused the Great Depression) there has been an era of social, artistic and cultural dynamism, characterised by a sustained economic prosperity with a distinctive cultural edge in the United States and Western Europe.
Art Deco spread out all over the world and affected all decorative arts such as architecture, interior design, and industrial design, as well as the visual arts such as fashion, jewelry painting and sculpture, the graphic arts and films, even poster art and postage stamps. Also transportation (mainly cars and trains) was influenced by Art Deco.
Art Deco introduced more modern shapes like spheres, polygons, rectangles etc. as well as new materials such as: stainless steel (of which several buildings were made of), aluminium, bakelite, chrome, and plastics were frequently used. The designers took a lot of inspiration from Cubism, Russian Constructivism and Italian Futurism, from Egyptians and ancient Greeks figures which were then stylized and adapted to their conception of modern design. That’s why Art Deco can be defined as a complex amalgam of artistic influences.
Art Deco in paintings:
Art Deco in Sculpture:
Art Deco in Architecture:
Art Deco in interior design and objects: