Art Deco Movement – The Foundation Stone of Modern Art

‘Art Deco’ was a mainstream international design movement, spreading over a span of fourteen years, from 1925 to 1939. It played a crucial role in the development and the progression of Modern Art. The Deco Movement embodied a blend of the different modern decorative art styles, largely from 1920s and 1930s. These styles were the derivatives of several state-of-the-art painting philosophies of the twentieth century, including ‘Neoclassical,’ ‘Constructivism,’ ‘Cubism,’ ‘Modernism,’ ‘Art Nouveau,’ and ‘Futurism.’ The Deco movement influenced various decorative arts, such as architecture, interior designing, industrial designing, and visual art forms like fashion, painting, graphic arts, and cinema.

The term ‘Art Deco’ was coined in an exhibition, ‘Exposition Internationale des Arts Decoratifs et Industriels Modernes,’ held in Paris, in the year 1925. The exhibition was organized by some French artists to promote the creation of a new genre of art, adapted to the contemporary lifestyle, a distinct sense of individuality, and fine workmanship. The organizers of this exhibition were the members of the society, ‘La Societe des artistes decorateurs,’ including, Hector Guinmard, Eugene Grasset, Raoul Lachenal, Paul Follot, Maurice Dufrene, and Emily Decour. The term ‘Art Deco’ however, gained widespread recognition only in the year 1968, when art historian Bevis Hiller, came out with his popular book, ‘Art Deco of the 20s and 30s,’ and organized an exhibition, ‘Art Deco,’ at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts.

This movement was distinguished for its abstraction, manipulation, and simplification of defined geometric shapes, and a vivid use of colors. The bold color schemes and blending curves were the focal points of the true ‘Deco’ creations. The so-called ‘ancient arts’ of Africa, Ancient Egypt, and Aztec Mexico, prominently inspired this movement. In the age of machines and streamline technology, the use of materials, such as plastics, enamels, harden concrete, and an unusual type of glass, ‘vita-glass,’ greatly affected the movement. There is sufficient evidence to indicate the employment of materials, like aluminum, stainless steel, lacquer, inlaid wood, along with exotic materials, like zebra and sharkskin.

The Empire State Building, famous for its pyramid-like structure, and the Chrysler Building, known for its multi-arched dome, are the living examples of the ‘Deco’ style. The movement even outlined the fashion industry of Paris in the 1920s. The dresses sported large chromium buttons, head-hugging cloche hats worn with huge fur collars, dangling earrings, and so called ‘bobbed hairstyles,’ all amounting to completely new and revolutionary look. The BBC Building in Portland Place and the basement of the Strand Palace Hotel, London are the examples of the pure ‘Art Deco’ style. The popularity of this movement took a beating during late 30s and 40s, but regained its lost sheen with the surge in the following of ‘graphic designing’ in the 1980s.

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