Thursday, January 17, 2013

Art Deco vs. Art Nouveau

Alphonse Mucha, "Princezna Hyacinta", 1911
Personally, I’ve always been a huge fan of Art Nouveau, probably because I grew up in a house decorated with Alphonse Mucha posters [Mucha was the “father” of Art Nouveau]. I love the flowery, flowing, asymmetrical patterns in Art Nouveau architecture and design and how they try to blend in with the natural surroundings. I mean look at these examples!! 

Casa Battló, restored by Gaudí, Barcelona
La Fermette Marbeau, Paris

[images: Tiffany Studios Double Poinsettia table lamp, / 
Hector Guimard furniture / Door by architect Emile André]

Chrysler Building © Bettmann/CORBIS
Art Nouveau, however, was a style popular from 1890 to 1910 and unfortunately it did not coincide with my favorite decade in fashion, which was the 1920’s and which was defined by another movement called Art Deco. During the 1920's, in the same way the flappers reacted to the austerity of the previous generation’s morals and fashion, so did Art Deco artists react to the flowery, ornamental, nature loving, romantic style of their predecessors. Art Deco was all about angles, symmetry and geometry; it celebrated machinery and technology; it used aluminum, stainless steel, chrome and plastic. One of the most famous Art Deco buildings and one that absolutely fascinates me is the Chrysler Building in New York, designed by architect William Van Alen. However, I cannot say that I am a big fan of Art Deco in general. 

Art Deco was a movement in the decorative arts, design and architecture that originated in the 1920s in France and developed into a major style in western Europe and the United States during the 1930s and 1940s.   

Deco emerged from the Interwar period when rapid industrialization was transforming culture, therefore it's not surprising that one of its major attributes was an embrace of technology. Deco drew inspiration from Machine Age and streamline technologies, such as modern aviation, electric lighting, radio, ocean liners and skyscrapers. Art Deco also came to represent luxury, glamour and exuberance, especially in the United States which were booming materially, if not spiritually...

Chrysler Building Entrance
Inspiration also came from abroad. During the 1920s, the ability for long-distance travel and the consequent encounter with foreign cultures, but also the popularity of archeology due to excavations in Pompeii and Troy and the discovery of the tomb of Tutankhamun, influenced artists and designers who used motifs from other cultures than their own - ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, Greece, Rome, Asia, Mesoamerica, and Oceania. Here are some fetching pieces of jewellery with evident influences...

[images: Pendant Brooch, Charlton 1925, Christie's / Egyptian revival comb, circa 1923 / No information / Aquamarine Pendant, 1930s]
Deco was also influenced by Cubism, Constructivism, Functionalism, Modernism, and Futurism, but while most of these design movements have political or philosophical beginnings or intentions, art deco was purely decorative.

[images: Parkview Square, Singapore © Harry Tan / Carbide and Carbon Building, Chicago Illinois © Terence Faircloth]
Art Deco was a globally popular style and influenced many areas of design, including industrial design, interior design... and jewelry... 

[images: Erté / evening dress, 1928 from the Minnesota Historical Society] well as the visual arts such as painting, graphic arts and film. Fritz Lang's Metropolis is one such example. You can read more about it in the post ‘Metropolis' – A Future of the Past.

"The austerities imposed by World War II caused Art Deco to decline in popularity." In the States, society had already entered an era of Great Depression after the stock market crash in 1929 and the Art Deco style "was perceived by many as inappropriately luxurious." No wonder...


More about the distinction: Art Nouveau & Art Deco For Noobs… more about Art Nouveau: more about Alphonse Mucha: Mucha on Wikipedia, Mucha Foundation, Mucha Museum, Mucha on 


My Art Deco Board: Pinterest / Art Deco
My Art Nouveau Board: Pinterest / Art Nouveau 
My '20s Fashion Board: Pinterest / '20s Fashion
'Metropolis' poster:
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