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Deco (Living the Twenties #AtoZChallenge 2020)

D AtoZ Challenge 2020

Although Art Deco wasn’t a true Avant Garde, it has many of the same characteristics. 

It was an innovative language, apt to describe the new world and the new lifestyle. It was very different from any artistic movements of the past, and it adopted the new language of mass production and industry. It also expresses a revolutionary idea: that art was for everyone, and it should be useful. 

The Philosophy of Art Deco

Art Deco was born in the years immediately following WWI, and it emerged from movements – especially Art Nouveau – already active before the beginning of the XX century. It had its most prolific time in Europe in the 1920s, then, as nationalistic movements opposed to all new forms of arts rose in the continent, Art Deco crossed the ocean and became the most popular form of creativity in America in the 1930s and 1940s. 

An Art Deco study by the Paris design firm of Alavoine, now in the Brooklyn Museum (1928–30)
An Art Deco study by the Paris design firm of Alavoine,
now in the Brooklyn Museum (1928–30)

At the base of Art Deco was the idea that art should marry life. The artistic object should not just be beautiful to look at, it should also be useful. It should bring beauty to the life of the people who possess it. 

To do so, it should be affordable. 

While art in the past was accessible only to the wealthy and the upper classes, Art Deco artists taught that everybody should have a chance at acquiring art. 

So they went about producing their art in a more modern way. These artists sought new materials that could be easier to get and delve into the new men-produced material (like bakelite, cement, glass) so to make art to a more accessible cost. For the same reason, they studied and applied the factory and industry processes to producing their objects. 

The goal was to create objects that the creative mind imagined, the new market could produce and reproduce, and that would be useful in the actual life of the possessors. 

It was a revolutionary concept of art, one that in a time where everything seemed possible and experimentation breathed into all fields of life, became incredibly popular and filtered into all aspect of arts and of life. 

Rosenthal Bavaria Orange Lustre Art Deco Chocolate Pot & Cups Set (Signed Louise Wells c.1907-1930)
Rosenthal Bavaria Orange Lustre Art Deco
Chocolate Pot & Cups Set
(Signed Louise Wells c.1907-1930)

How Art Deco was similar to the Avant Garde

Art Deco sought a new language. Leaving behind the naturalistic representation of life, it embraced a stylisation of forms and colours and sought a very simple, streamlined look. It also broke with the past in its conception of art itself. Not a thing for the elite, but something for everyone. Art should be useful, then, because it should be used by true people who work and live.

In this sense, Art Deco was similar to the true Avant Gards because it intentionally broke with the past to seek a new language, a new way to understand and to actually produce arts. 

Art Deco was an innovative language, apt to describe the new world and the new lifestyle #ArtDeco Click To Tweet

How Art Deco was different from the Avant Garde

In spite of these similarities, Art Deco was not really Avant Garde 

Firstly, Art Deco never had the social aspiration that vanguard movements had. Although it did seek to bring a renovation and an advancement in the life of people, that change didn’t necessarily involve social life, and therefore, it never became a political push and expression. 

Secondly, Art Deco sough beauty in any created object. Avant Garde movements were more prone to deforming natural forms. Some of these movements, such as German Expressionism, were fascinated with illness and deformation. Almost all of the vanguard movements sought to shock the public with the use of strange, unusual forms or colours. Harmony, which was the goal of Art Deco, was the least interest of the Avant Guards. 


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RESOURCES

V. Terraroli (a cura di), Art Déco. Gli anni ruggenti in Italia. Catalogo della mostra (Forlì, 11 febbraio-18 giugno 2017), Silvana Editore, Cinisello Balsamo (Milano), 2017


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AtoZ Challenge 2020 Living the Twenties Deco

41 Comments

  • Margot Kinberg
    Posted April 4, 2020 at 01:30

    I’ve always liked Art Deco. Thanks, Sarah, for sharing this interesting information about it!

    • Post Author
      jazzfeathers
      Posted April 4, 2020 at 09:53

      I’ve always loved Art Deco too, since when I was a girl. It gives me a sense of balance and purituy. And now that I’m researching its history, I love it even more.

  • Kristin
    Posted April 4, 2020 at 04:08

    I didn’t realize the term “art deco” wasn’t coined until 1960!

    • Post Author
      jazzfeathers
      Posted April 4, 2020 at 09:56

      Me neither. Though I want to look more into it, because after all the term ‘Artes Décoratif’ was used in the very first exhibit in 1925. Something to look more in depth 😉

  • J Lenni Dorner~ Co-host of the #AtoZchallenge, Debut Author Interviewer, Reference& Speculative Fiction Author
    Posted April 4, 2020 at 05:36

    Excellent post! I didn’t know most of this. I do like the look of objects from the era though.

    Have a great April! Keep up the great posts.

    • Post Author
      jazzfeathers
      Posted April 4, 2020 at 09:57

      Thanks so much for stopping by, Lenni 🙂
      I’ve alwasy love Art Deco and now that I know a bit more about it… I want to know even more!

  • Tarkabarka
    Posted April 4, 2020 at 09:56

    I do love art deco 🙂 It shows up in many places in Budapest. I think they even have a city walk where you can visit the best buildings to admire…

    • Post Author
      jazzfeathers
      Posted April 4, 2020 at 10:00

      Oh, I’d love to go on that walk!
      Here in Italy, Art Deco was more a style for the private houses. There are some in my little town too, but I’d be hard pressed to name a public building with that stile. But it was very active in everything design. Forniture, objects, fashion, jewellery. I’ve seen a lot of these things at the exhibit here in Italy a couple of years ago. I’m beyond myself how much beauty I’ve seen that day.

  • Frédérique
    Posted April 4, 2020 at 10:39

    Art Déco is a fascinating movement, my fisrt AtoZ post was about this theme also, but in quilts!
    Lovely photos, great post!

  • Tasha Duncan-Drake
    Posted April 4, 2020 at 11:38

    It is so important that everyone should have access to art, it enriches life so much. I did not realise this about Art Deco, you have educated me again, thank you . I have a friend who loves Art Deco and we always have fun trying to find something in deco style for her at Christmas.
    Tasha
    Virginia’s Parlour – The Manor (Adult concepts – nothing explicit in posts)
    Tasha’s Thinkings – Vampire Drabbles

    • Post Author
      jazzfeathers
      Posted April 5, 2020 at 09:20

      Oh, I’m so jealous of your friend. Very few ever acknowledge my love for deco.

  • Keith's Ramblings
    Posted April 4, 2020 at 13:50

    I am fortunate in living but a few steps away from the De La Warr Pavillion, a contemporary arts centre which is considered to one of the finest art deco buildings in the UK. Unsurprisingly, its proximity has fuelled my interest in this fascinating movement.

    My A-Z tale!

    • Post Author
      jazzfeathers
      Posted April 5, 2020 at 09:23

      I Google it, I was so curious.
      That staircase is awesome!

  • Andrew Wilson
    Posted April 4, 2020 at 18:27

    I am doing a bit of a roundup of A to Z blogs I have enjoyed over at my blog
    https://how-would-you-know.blogspot.com/ saying the following

    Interested in the Twenties? Sarah Zama at
    https://theoldshelter.com/deco-living-the-twenties-atozchallenge-2020/
    Your only woman for the job!

    Is that ok with you?

    • Post Author
      jazzfeathers
      Posted April 5, 2020 at 09:36

      Thanks so much, Andrew.
      And great post for D!

      • Andrew Wilson
        Posted April 5, 2020 at 11:59

        Today’s task E is for Editing…

  • Anagha Yatin
    Posted April 4, 2020 at 18:40

    Art Deco is a new discovery for me. What I liked about it is the idea that art should be usable and within the reach of most and not just a handful of wealthy.
    When I started appreciating its similarity with Avant Grade, you showed us the other side of the coin. I am thoroughly enjoying learning these well-researched snippets of knowledge.

    • Post Author
      jazzfeathers
      Posted April 5, 2020 at 09:40

      I learned most of what I know about Art Deco history at an hexibit held a couple of years ago here in Italy. I too didn’t know about this idea of making art accessible and I really like it. It’s a philosophy I throughly share.

  • msjadeli
    Posted April 5, 2020 at 04:42

    I like the distinction you made between Avant Garde and Art Deco as far as social commentary. I love the idea of functional art and the look of Art Deco.

    • Post Author
      jazzfeathers
      Posted April 5, 2020 at 09:42

      You know a funny thing? When I stadied arts at school, I didn’t like these modern forms of art. But now that I’m looking more into it, I’m really falling for them.

  • Nilanjana Bose
    Posted April 5, 2020 at 15:35

    I totally dig the idea that art should be for all and sundry not just for the super wealthy well heeled. And it has a neat vibe – especially the buildings and the jewellery pieces. Love them! This series is turning out as fantastic as your previous A-Zs, kudos!

    • Post Author
      jazzfeathers
      Posted April 7, 2020 at 11:00

      Yes, I love that concept of art for everyone too. I especially love the idea that art should be useful. Which means that everyday tools should be beautiful and bring beauty to our lives. Which is again, a concept I love.

  • Ronel Janse van Vuuren
    Posted April 5, 2020 at 15:40

    Now I know why most of my crockery are covered in beautiful art 🙂 Thanks for sharing!

    An A-Z of Faerie: Duergar

  • Raesquiggles
    Posted April 5, 2020 at 17:45

    Love the simplicity of Art Deco.

    • Post Author
      jazzfeathers
      Posted April 7, 2020 at 11:02

      Me too. I fell in love with Art Deco as a teenager, when I knew noting about Art Deco. I find it soothing and satispfying.

  • Josna
    Posted April 5, 2020 at 22:05

    Very informative piece, Sarah. I had only the vaguest idea of what Art Deco was, even though I more or less knew its period and recognized the typefaces associated with it. But I am certainly one of those who would not have been able to tell you the difference between Art Nouveau and Art Deco. Neither did I realize that they were all about form following function while remaining beautiful. Come to think of it, perhaps the “Deco” in the name was misleading to me, since it suggests decorative rather than useful.
    We’re in the Twenties again. I wonder what kind of design is going to characterize this time? Hard, impermeable surfaces than can easily be disinfected?

    • Post Author
      jazzfeathers
      Posted April 7, 2020 at 11:05

      The name does come from ‘Decorative’, because the first exposition was organised in contrast to the official arts, which didn’t consider craftsmen to be artists. Which the Deco followers of course did.
      LOL! I really hope the 2020s will offer something better than ‘impermeable surfaces than can easily be disinfected’.

  • Debbie
    Posted April 6, 2020 at 10:34

    An interesting piece, thank you. I dont know much about Art Deco’s history at all, but I do now!

    Debs from Everyday Delights with Dabelle’s Lockdown Adventures

    • Post Author
      jazzfeathers
      Posted April 7, 2020 at 11:06

      Happy I let you discover something. I love Art Deco. Always done. I sometimes think it was inevitable that at some point in my file I would have fall into the 1920s.

  • Ninu Nair
    Posted April 6, 2020 at 13:30

    I had no clue that art deco was this recent. Your posts are so interesting and informative! Looking forward to your next post

    • Post Author
      jazzfeathers
      Posted April 7, 2020 at 11:10

      It is really quite recent. And it looks so modern, don’t you find?

  • Carrie-Anne
    Posted April 7, 2020 at 03:19

    I really like Art Deco jewelry and architecture. They pop with so much personality and originality.

    • Post Author
      jazzfeathers
      Posted April 7, 2020 at 11:17

      True. Though I think my very favourite part is interior design and forniture. That’s what I think when I think Deco.

  • Birgit
    Posted April 8, 2020 at 03:50

    Even though I prefer Art Nouveau, I really do love Art Deco especially in the architecture and design in the buildings. You can see so many even in small towns.

    • Post Author
      jazzfeathers
      Posted April 9, 2020 at 08:46

      I love Art Nouveau too. But Deco speaks more to my need of cleare lines 😉

  • April Moore
    Posted April 8, 2020 at 15:02

    I have always loved art deco, particularly in jewelry and fashion. I had no idea the term wasn’t coined until the 1960s. So fascinating!

    • Post Author
      jazzfeathers
      Posted April 9, 2020 at 08:47

      I did a bit more digging and apparently Art Deco was use back in the time, but in a derogatory way. From the 1960s, it is used to define the style instead.
      I didn’t knwo that either.

  • The Dream Girl
    Posted April 13, 2020 at 21:04

    Art Deco is so beautiful!!

    All my posts for the challenge can be found here:
    https://thedreamgirlwrites.wordpress.com/a-z-2020/

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