Art Deco, or Deco, is an influential visual arts design style that first appeared in France after World War I and began flourishing internationally in the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s before its popularity waned after World War II. Deco emerged from the interwar rapid industrialisation that was transforming culture. The style is often characterized by rich colours, bold geometric shapes and lavish ornamentation.One of its major attributes is an embrace of technology and combination of traditional craft motifs with Machine Age imagery and materials. This distinguishes Deco from the organic motifs favoured by its predecessor Art Nouveau. During its heyday, Art Deco represented luxury, glamour, exuberance and faith in social and technological progress.
In 1905, before the onset of Cubism, Eugène Grasset wrote and published Méthode de Composition Ornementale, Éléments Rectilignes, within which he systematically explored the decorative (ornamental) aspects of geometric elements, forms, motifs and their variations, in contrast with (and as a departure from) the undulating Art Nouveau style of Hector Guimard, so popular in Paris a few years earlier. Grasset stresses the principle that various simple geometric shapes like triangles and squares are the basis of all compositional arrangements.
Deco was heavily influenced by pre-modern art from around the world and observable at the Musée du Louvre, Musée de l’Homme and the Musée national des Arts d’Afrique et d’Océanie. During the 1920s, affordable travel permitted in situ exposure to other cultures. There was also popular interest in archeology due to excavations at Pompeii,Troy, the tomb of Tutankhamun, etc. Artists and designers integrated motifs from ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, Greece, Rome, Asia, Mesoamerica and Oceania with Machine Age elements.
Bevis Hillier defined Art Deco 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”. 1968 Art Deco of the ’20s and ’30s.
Deco emphasizes geometric forms: spheres, polygons, rectangles, trapezoids, zigzags, chevrons, and sunburst motifs. Elements are often arranged in symmetrical patterns. Modern materials such as aluminum, stainless steel, Bakelite, chrome, and plastics are frequently used. Stained glass, inlays, and lacquer are also common. Colors tend to be vivid and high contrast.
Art Deco was a globally popular style and affected many areas of design. It was used widely in consumer products such as automobiles, furniture, cookware, china, textiles, jewelry, clocks, and electronic items such as radios, telephones, and jukeboxes. It also influenced architecture, interior design, industrial design, fashion, graphic arts, and cinema.
During the 1930s, Art Deco was used extensively for public works projects, railway stations, ocean liners (including the Île de France, Queen Mary, andNormandie), movie palaces, and amusement parks.
The austerities imposed by World War II caused Art Deco to decline in popularity: it was perceived by some as gaudy and inappropriately luxurious.A resurgence of interest began during the 1960s. Deco continues to inspire designers and is often used in contemporary fashion, jewelry, and toiletries.
A style related to Art Deco is Streamline Moderne (or Streamline) which emerged during the mid-1930s. Streamline was influenced by modern aerodynamic principles developed for aviation and ballistics to reduce air friction at high velocities. Designers applied these principles to cars (eg Chrysler Airflow of 1933), trains, ships, and even objects not intended to move, such as refrigerators, gas pumps, and buildings.