Art Deco 101

Jean Dunand’s Art Deco Smoking room courtesy of Philips
 
For many, the refined elegance and glamour of the 1920s are the epitome of style. Art Deco developed in opposition to the modernist design movement that favored function, mass production, and technology. In contrast, art deco is characterized by streamlined classicism, decadent detail work, and bold geometry. Art deco details are perpetually in style. In popular culture, movies such as The Great Gatsby and The Grand Budapest Hotel have brought renewed interest to the style. Top designers today often work in details, whether over the top or subtle. It is fair to say that art deco is not going away.

Erté "Queen of the Night"

Screen by Jean Dunand

 HISTORY:

The term "Art Deco" was derived from the name of the French exhibition "Exposition Internationale des arts décoratifs et industriels modernes" held at the World's Fair in Paris in 1925. The French government designed the exhibit to highlight the new style moderne of architecture, interior decoration, furniture, glass, jewelry, and other decorative arts in Europe and throughout the world.

Jean Dunand, left, and his son work on panels for the luxury ship Atlantique in Dunand’s Paris studio, ca. 1930. Photo by Salaün

 

Émile-Jacques Ruhlmann Grand Salon exhibit at the 1925 Paris Exposition Internationale des Arts Decoratifs et Industriels Modernes

A detail of Michael Kenna’s Chrysler Building, Study 3, 2006 offered by Jackson Fine Art

 CHARACTERSITICS:

  • Bold Geometry and symmetric compositions featuring shapes like chevron, spheres and trapezoids 
  • Elaborate Motifs featuring prints like fans, zig zags, and peacock feathers
  • Rich and exotic materials such as lacquer, ivory, gilt and silver leafing, and rare woods
  • Decadent detail work
  • Sleek machine age finishes

 

Wildflower Hall, India Photo by Abhinav Khanna courtesy of Accidentally Wes Anderson

 

Boca Raton Resort, Photo by Justin Schuble  courtesy of Accidentally Wes Anderson

Eastern Columbia Building, Photo by Elizabeth Daniels courtesy of Accidentally Wes Anderson

 

Master bath of Linda Pinto’s Paris home, Photo by Ricardo Labougle 

DESIGNERS TO KNOW:

  • Émile-Jacques Ruhlmann - The epitome of the glamorous art deco era
  • Jean Dunand – extraordinary emblematic designer, best remembered for his lacquer and metal work
  • René Lalique – best known for his work with glass
  • Jules Leleu – Known for his use of opulent materials such as ivory, lacquer, sharkskin and exotic woods
  • Maurice Defrène – Known for his neoclassical fluted chairs
  • Paul Fallot – Known for his gilt and silver leafing
  • André Groult – Known for his voluptuous bombé forms
  • Eileen Gray – Foremost pioneer of art deco and modernism

 

Erte "L'Inoubliable Nuit No. 45"

Félix Marcilhac’s Paris apartment,  featuring a cabinet (1921) by Jean Dunand, photograph by Jerome Galland

Yves Saint Laurent with Jean Dunand Vases

“To create something that lasts, the first thing is to want to create something that lasts forever”

- Émile-Jacques Ruhlmann 

 

Lacquered panels by Jean Dunand exhibited by Maison Gerard

Important Cabinet, detail (c. 1937) by Eugène Printz and Jean Dunand, courtesy of Chritie's

Eugène Printz and Jean Dunand Sideboard, courtesy of Sotheby’s

“There seems to be no limit to M. Dunand’s enthusiasm and interest. He apparently recognizes no rules and bows to no traditions.”

— Amalie Busk Deady, The Craftsman, 1911

EXAMPLES:

 

Lous Süe and André Mare "Lady's Chair" Courtesy of Sotheby's

Jules Leleu via 1st Dibs

Émile-Jacques Ruhlmann vase

Émile-Jacques Ruhlmann “Katz” desk, courtesy of Sothebys