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Art Deco in Europe: A Modern Tendency to Style & Aesthetics

It all began with an exhibition on the entrances of the Petit Palais and the Grand Palais on the banks of the Seine River in 1900. Crowds of people, noble families, and artists rushed to visit the Exposition Universelle of the new style. Throughout seven months of the exhibition, Paris became the epicenter of the new decorative arts, showcasing the works of 15,000 artists, architects, and designers. Art Nuovo Style was born.

Poster of the Exposition Universelle (1900), Unknown artist

Beginnings of Art Deco Movement

A few decades following romanticism and its sheer focus on the beauties of life, Art Deco was a natural offspring. The movement was a consequent of the widespread adaptation of photo cameras. Before photography, art was used for both its decorative aspects and the recording of images and memorial stages. Aesthetics became the core interest for many artists, architects, and designers across Europe; however, the Art Nouveau style is regarded as a French art movement.

The end of the 19th century also marked the budding of modern life, as a result of the Industrial Revolution. Art Nouveau brought newness, a lighthearted art with only beauty in its essence and purpose.

Societé des Artistes Décorateurs

The Society of Decorative Artists was the nourishing spring of Art Deco; a bridge between the old and the new. The society included: Art Nouveau style designer Eugéne Grasset, and architect Hector Guimard, and several other emerging decorative artists and designers. In contrast with impressionism and post-impressionism just a few decades before, the French state and academic art society welcomed Art Nouveau style.

A photo of Société des Artistes Décorateurs, France, 1901.

The Art Deco movement bloomed in the form of decorative arts, fashion, and architecture. The movement developed into a prominent style across the world, but it was greatly favored in western Europe and the United States.

World War I & Decorative Arts

Decorative arts and beauties of life were in stark contrast against the cruelty of World War I. The war of nations started when Art Deco was in its full bloom in the first few decades of the 20th century. New groups were formed and fervent artists gathered to perform the Art Deco styles and concepts. Evidently, most of these artists were less occupied with the political and economical downfalls of European societies after the industrial revolutions.

Several major exhibitions were planned for 1914, though they were delayed by the breakout of WWI and later the deadly pandemic called the Spanish Flu. Some of these exhibitions were canceled altogether, while others resumed only after 1925.

After WWI, famine and poverty had infested the previously functioning society. There was no room for extravagance and the pain of the war’s aftermath did not leave room for the uplifting spirit of Art Nouveau. These otherwise romantic motifs were now ill-suited to an industrious and starved society. WWI changed the direction of art as it did with many other human ways. The Art Nouveau movement channeled its delicate and stylized forms into artisanal works while the Art Deco aesthetic focused on machine-age streamlining and symmetric creations.

Characteristics of Art Deco

A combination of nostalgic romanticism and geometric libations were the repeating motifs of Art Deco stylizations. The illustrated motifs were representational forms, symmetric and simple with clean-cut and fluid lines and repeating keynotes.

To celebrate the age of industrialization and contemporary life, much of the original Art Nuovo masterpieces were executed with man-made materials including plastics, colored glass, ferroconcrete, and of course natural substances like stone and metal. Lively colors were another characteristic of early 20th century Art Nuovo, gold and silver were used widely.

Color lithographs "Chanson Antique" and "Le réveil du jour" signed Mary Golay, printed by Clément Tournier & Co.

Art Deco objects were unique in nature and often produced singularly. Mass produced examples of this style were also performed, but only on rare occasions. Handcrafted, limited editions were a part of Art Deco’s glorious beauty.

Unlike other artistic styles, Art Deco was not averse to receiving influence from another art movement; themes of Cubism and romanticism, native impressions from across the world, and early classical motifs derived from the creations’ masterwork in nature, were used interchangeably. When it comes to objective perspectives, the highlights are: nude female figures, nature, flowers, and foliage particularly.

Art Nouveau and Art Deco

These terms are usually used interchangeably. Art Deco celebrated aestheticism as a philosophy while Art Nouveau style embraced a wider area within the culture. Art Nouveau style was the structural foundation of welcoming the new and modernistic ways of being; this included art, day-to-day fashion, and even morals. The term “Art Deco” was used by the modernist architect Le Corbusier to explain decorative concepts in the modern age.

Notable Mentions of Art Deco in Style and Fashion

Interior design was a playground for Art Deco designers, such as; Jacques Ruhlmann and Maurice Dufrène who created enticing interiors that exist even today. On the surface of interior design, architects too were bewitched by the beauty of Art Deco.

René Lalique, Brooch in the form of a fool, ca. 1897-1899 , Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, Netherlands.

Today, Art Deco is recognized best in the form of fashion and jewelry. The bewildering jewelry creations of Jean Puiforcat and René Lalique and the fashion designs of Erté are known as ever-inspiring masterpieces.

Art Deco & Contemporaneity

Like modern life, Art Deco holds the fast-paced and ever-changing essence of the past 100 years. While attempting to reach new artistic heights, the artworks are yet rooted in the classics and nostalgic patterns with the streamlined aesthetic of Deco.

Image Sources

Wikiwand, Poster of the Exposition Universelle (1900), Unknown artist

Galery Atena, Courtesy of the book Art Nouveau, 1890-1914 [Greenhalgh, Paul], Color lithographs

"Chanson Antique" and "Le réveil du jour" signed Mary Golay, printed by Clément Tournier & Co.

Daily art Magazine, René Lalique, Brooch in the form of a fool, ca. 1897-1899 , Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, Netherlands.

WAWA Design, A photo of Société des Artistes Décorateurs, France, 1901.


Khaled Dewidar, Art Deco Architectural Style, The British University in Egypt, 2018.

Victor Arwas and Frank Russell, Art Deco, Smithsonian Libraries and Archives, 1923.

Edited by Peter Selz and Mildred Constantine, with articles by Greta Daniel, Art nouveau: art and design at the turn of the century, published by The Museum of Modern Art: Distributed by Doubleday,1960.

2 kommentarer

09 dec. 2021

Lovely article, very nicely written and researched. Thank you!


09 dec. 2021

Fantastic analysis of the Art Deco scene

Author Photo

Pourandokht Mazaheri

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