Art Deco: the style that influenced the design of buildings, furniture, jewellery, fashion, cars, trains and everyday objects such as radios and vacuum cleaners.
It took its name from the “Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes” held in Paris in 1925 (although the diverse styles that characterize Art Deco had already appeared in Paris and Brussels before World War I) and combined modern styles with fine craftsmanship and rich materials. Art Deco represented luxury, glamour, exuberance and faith in progress.
Art Deco was influenced by the bold geometric forms of Cubism, the bright colours of Fauvism and the Ballets Russes and the exotic styles of China and Japan, India, Persia and Mayan art. There was also popular interest in archeology due to excavations at Pompeii, Troy and the discovery of the 18th dynasty Pharaoh Tutankhamen’s tomb in 1922.
In architecture, American skyscrapers marked the summit of the Art Deco style with the Chrysler Building (1930), the Empire State Building (1931) and the Rockefeller Plaza (1933) as examples.
Fashion changed dramatically during the Art Deco period thanks to Paul Poiret and later Coco Chanel. The corseted look and formal styles of the previous period were abandoned and fashion became more practical and streamlined with the use of new materials, brighter colours and printed designs, popularizing the style of sporty, casual chic.
The jewellery houses of Cartier, Chaumet, Mauboussin and Van Cleef & Arpels all started to create jewellery and objects in the new fashion, using more colourful gemstones and introducing less expensive materials such as enamel, glass, onyx and ivory, in elaborate geometric designs and set in platinum. Pearls were equally popular during this period.
Art Deco was one of the first truly international styles but its dominance ended with the beginning of World War II.