Following on from Art Nouveau, which took organic forms as its inspiration, Art Deco’s stylistic references were eclectic, ranging from geometric abstraction to tribal art and Egyptian civilisation and popular culture.
Although it originated in France, this concentration on all things lavish quickly spread.
America was in the grips of Prohibition in the mid-1920s and culture pivoted around going to speakeasies and nightclubs around the country. Art Deco fashion reflected women’s desire to move freely with slits down the thigh for energetic dances like “The Charleston”. An androgynous look was favoured in keeping with the contemporary gender crisis…
In the 30s Art Deco became associated with the idyllic Hollywood lifestyle, with luxury and glamour and sophistication with its sculptural and geometric accents.
Art Deco prioritised superior craftsmanship (with a focus on hand-sculpted designs) and luxurious materials such as exotic woods, mother of pearl and fine mirrors.
This focus on handcrafted elements meant that it was incompatible with the industrialised production that was coming into being, making it relatively short-lived at the time. And the arrival of World War II put an end to this maximalist aesthetic.
And yet it’s legacy lives on. You only have to look at this year’s Eurovision contestants and Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby to realise that Art Deco has experienced a revival.
This appreciation began as early as the 60s when collectors began to seek out designer pieces. In the 1980s, post-modern designers again began drew on its excess and exuberance for inspiration.
In contemporary interiors, Art Deco pieces create a statement adding a decorative flourish and a sense of opulence. It’s hard not to fall under the spell of this striking feminine style.