Art Deco

Art Deco is an art direction, situated between 1915 and 1940. The period contained two contradictory streams. On the one hand the style was characterised by precious, rich material, often with the handmade, decoratively and luxurious. On the other hand it could be a strife for simple, functional forms and to mass production. Within this second stream much plastic was used (for example bakelite, the first kind of plastic, that was developed by a belgian in 1909). Although in very many respects differing from each other both streams carry the same name: Art Deco. Precious luxurious Art Deco developed simultaneously with the Art Nouveau and had the same inspirato, namely the Crafts movement from the United Kingdom. Within Art Deco the undulating line was simplified, more geometrical, as among other things can be seen in the early work of the Dutchman Chris van der Hoef and the belgian Henry van de Velde. The artistic, rich Art Deco had it’s peak time especially in the roaring Twenties, with the rise of the jazz and big-bands, with as definite end the crash of the New York stock exchange in 1929, where many nouveaux riches, lost money. Afterwards this was a large opening for the simple, modernistic Art Deco, with its plastic radios, jukeboxes, steel furniture and such. A very large name from this time was Le Corbusier, who had been cornered away on the World Exposition of 1925 in a small pafiljon on a not very accessible spot. Moreover Art Deco borrows its name from this International Exposition.The second episode of art deco abruptly stopped with the breaking out of the second world war. In this short essay we stipulate the designs of the precious objects of first episode of Art Deco.

Poster of the 1925 Parish World Fair

Inspiration was drawn from the Ballets Russes of Serge Diaghilev who performed his ballets in Paris since 1909. Léon Bakst was the decor -, and costumedesigner, whose rich colors brought many people in extase.

Sèvres kniferest,
H. Paliné, ca. 1925

The opening of the sepulchre of Toetanchamon in 1922, brought a renewed interest for old Egyptian forms and it’s influence can be seen in many decorative objects. Also Aztec culture was considered as an inspiration source. From the cubism and the fauvism from the painting art, abstract forms were borrowed, such as concentric circles or parts of them, it’s zigzag and lightning pattern, diagrids, stylised flowers and a lot of other patterns. Figuratively the animals were: the elephants, greyhounds and the deers, also fountains were often used as a decor. In the art deco period old styles such as the empire and Louis XVI were simplified and exotic lumber, zilver and gems were added. In contrast to the gentle colours of the Art Nouveau, now bright colours was used. Also in ceramics we see these bright colours, like in the jazz figurines and services of the English pottery studio of Clarice Cliff, the vases of Charles Catteau and Buthaud, the very artistic objects of Robj, Editions Etling and the masks and figurines of Goldscheider. Sandoz made his magnifiscent stylised animals in Limoges. At Royal Copenhagen Knud Kyhn manufactured solid grès bears and compact mammots. Sarreguemines had some pure Art Deco tête-à-tête's in their collection, among which the example bellow.

Sarreguemines, Tête-à-Tête,
decor pergola, ca. 1930

Also in the field of lamps beautiful designs could be admired. Edgar Brandt’s was a genius with his wrought iron designs. His lamps, often with glass of Daum, were and are still very much appreciated. Beside Daum there were the well-known glassworks Muller Frères, Degué, Gallé, Lalique, Sabino, Legras, Schneider and further important Verreries. Next to the acid etched objects with differing coloured layers glass (sometimes as much as seven, like some vases of Muller Frères) there was the fairy-like lightness of the pâte de verre, rediscovered from the antiquity by Henry Cros in 1883 and developed futher on by Almeric Walter, Decorchemont and Argy Rousseau in the Twenties.

Talented bronze workers made elegant dancer in the art of the excentric clothing of the ballet Russes. The Rumanian Dimitri Chiparus could be inspired especially by Nizjinski and Ida Rubenstein, who were dancers in those years. Chryséléphantine was way of working, this means a teamwork of ivory and bronze for a, however, very tense combination. This combined action of the delicate, "gentle" ivory with the hard, "aggressive" bronze was already used for generations, but was optimally applied in Art Deco period. By the large offer of ivory from Belgisch-Congo, meant that ivory became much cheaper than bronze, therefore beside the artistic value of ivory came also a interesting financial value. Cold painting the bronze in metal colours made the art work complete.

Bronze sculpture of D.H. Chiparus,
ca. 1925

Fritz Preiss, a student of prof. Otto Poertzel, worked, in a very naturalistic way. His several sport characters are renowned. His ladies in contemporary clothing, with or without greyhounds, are very admired. He made a female pilote (Amalia Earhardt?) with nonchalant cap on. He made an enthusiastic little boy, who picks up fish with his rod, yelling with delight. He made clocks and ink wells of several different materials, like ivory, marble, bronze, onyx etc.. A very diverse artist. Also active in France was Philippe, who created monumental works with simple designs, tightly and geometrically. In Vienna Tereszczuk worked with bronze and ivory in small genre object. Mirrors, pieces of furniture, screens, candlesticks, clothing, jewels and tablesilver (the Dane Georg Jensen!), Art Deco pressed it’s stamp on every conceivable object. It is thus no wonder that just in this time the profession of "ensemblier" arose. The designer did not devise only that one chair or one table, but he stylised the complete space in perfect harmonie. A good example is Josef Hoffman, one of the founders of the Wiener Werkstätte. He was the architect and the ensemblier of the Stockletpalace in Bruxelles. Everything is in consistency with the surrounding, everything breathes the same fine, indelible environment. Contemporary artisian Gustave Klimt designed the mozaïken in the refectory, which breathe the same air.

Although we in the Netherlands don’t have any typical Art Deco partisans, here also a new style arose, called ‘de Stijl’ (= the Style). The ‘the Style’ was more influenced by the German Bauhaus of Walter Gropius, and therefore a more ‘functional’ sober style then the rich French Art Deco. The style ‘the Amsterdam school’ is a separate tale. Although their furniture and especially their lamps have Art Deco impulses, it’s nevertheless especially a movement of architects, who turn off themselves against the constructively applied brick of Berlage. They shared his preference for brick, but used it purely for decorating. One of the few Art Deco examples in the Netherlands can be found in Amsterdam. Within the influence of "the style" and the " Amsterdam school" the marvellous Tuschinski was built in 1921 (a still existing cinema). Although we do not leave Europe in this tale, we must nevertheless stand still to the development of art deco in North America. Very impressive is the art of construction (for example the Empire State Building, the Chrysler Building and a lot of others) which awakes our largest admiration and we have no similar example in Europe, unfortunately.

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