Vintage Poster Art Part III: Art Deco

Art Deco is arguably one of the most widely recognized art genres of the 20th century. Bold, elegant and luxurious, Art Deco swept away any remnants of its predecessor Art Nouveau.

Gone were the "whiplash" lines of Art Nouveau, replaced instead with bold geometric shapes, rich colours and streamlined designs mirroring the industries that were transforming the world. Art Deco works often featured spheres, rectangles, zigzags, chevrons, sunbursts or trapeziums arranged in symmetrical patterns. Designs were sharp, punchy and eye-catching.

The movement first appeared in France after World War I but quickly took off around the world. Today, Art Deco reminds us of the Roaring Twenties, when the movement was most popular.

It was dubbed "Art Deco" during the peak of this popularity at the 1925 Parisian Exposition International des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Moderns (International Exposition of Modern Industrial and Decorative Arts).

As with Art Nouveau, Art Deco was used in architecture, fashion, jewellery, film, fabric, and interior design as well as fine arts. Modern materials such as aluminium, steel, chrome, stained glass and lacquer were applied to Art Deco pieces.

Even common consumer products like cars, televisions, furniture, clocks and mirrors were designed around the Art Deco style. Today, you can see Art Deco influences in railways stations, ocean liners, movie palaces and amusement parks across the globe.

Influences on Art Deco

Where its precursor Art Nouveau embraced nature, Art Deco emulated modern technology. Its style was smooth and sophisticated, echoing the newfound affluence, hope and freedom born out of post-war optimism.

For subject matters, artists turned to industry. Their posters and prints featured the latest transport and skyscrapers, reflecting a boom in manufacturing and wealth.

As wealth and transport improved, the world grew smaller. Travel became possible for the masses, and its popularity influenced Art Deco designs. With the discovery of King Tutankhamen’s tomb in 1922, pyramids, sphinxes and hieroglyphics appeared in Art Deco architecture and prints. The ziggurat (staggered or tiered pyramid shapes) was particularly common in architecture and in the buildings you see in Vintage Poster art from this period.

This was also a time when the Silver Screen was coming into its own. Art naturally imitated the opulence of early Hollywood, using the sleek and glamorous designs one would expect to find in actor’s abode.

But you couldn’t just find Hollywood in art. You could just as easily find the art in Hollywood! Art Deco was a style popularly used by LA studios to broadcast their latest movie releases. Greta Garbo’s The Kiss and Charlie Chaplin’s City Lights are two of many blockbuster movies to create vintage posters.

Prominent Art Deco Artists

The Art Deco style was influenced by an informal artists’ collective known as La Société des Artistes Décorateurs (Society of Decorative Artists). This collective was founded at the start of the century to encourage the progress and success of France’s decorative arts.

Among the most prominent Art Deco artists are Pierre Brissaud, Jean Dupas, and Tamara de Lempicka. Contemporary artist Michael L Kungl also uses Art Deco in his poster designs.

The Decline of Art Deco

The Art Deco movement initially flourished during the Great Depression. But perhaps it was simply too decadent. By the mid-1930s, its popularity was waning. The movement was truly over before the outbreak of the Second World War.

Today, we can see the legacy of Art Deco all around us. From the Chrysler Building and the Empire State Building in New York to the Manchester Unity Building in Melbourne and the ANZAC War Memorial in Sydney, Art Deco has put an indelible mark on cities worldwide.

Richard Tarrant - Bio

Richard Tarrant - Founder and CEO of PictureStore Pty Ltd
Richard is founder and CEO of PictureStore and has worked since October 2000 to make wall art accessible to all Australians. Google+

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