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Art Deco's eclectic stylistic influences evolved from around 1900, culminating in the beginning of the Art Deco period about 1920. To trace the development or emergence of Art Deco, one must start at the 1925 Paris World's Fair. The Exposition Internationale des Arts Decoratifs et Industriels Modernes was the origin of this controversial, new style, , heralding the coming of the modern, industrialized world. "Period" Art Deco is generally considered to be objects produced from around 1925 until about 1939 when World War II engulfed Europe and subsequently the U.S. The stylistic influences of Art Deco continued on after the war, evidenced in many ways in 1950s design and what we now call mid-century modern. Art Deco had a substantial impact in most all fields of design including jewelry, sculpture, furniture, glass, architecture, and graphic design. Artists from this period such as Demetre Chiparus were influenced by Egyptian, Greek, Roman, and far eastern themes and historical objects. Art Deco also coupled these classical influences with modernism, evidenced in the design of automobiles and trains, and these industrial expressions of Art Deco made their way into consumer goods as well.

The period from 1920 until the early 1930s was marked with many contrasts, from the wild times of the "Roaring 20s" through the Great Depression and its aftermath. Art Deco style offered people elegant environments of a cool sophistication, creating objects from new, man made materials like the plastic bakelite and using exotic woods and inlays in furniture. New and faster trains and ocean liners were making distant lands accessible, and Hollywood and the explosion of radio brought these adventures and of course entertainment to the general public. Simple, geometric lines are inherent in Art Deco design; objects were simpler than Art Nouveau but were streamlined and elegant in their angular forms and vibrant colors. Today, our period buildings like the Chrysler Building in New York City with its ornamental gargoyles and silver spire reminiscent of giant sunbeams-- a popular Art Deco theme--preserve Art Deco design. The Empire State Building was constructed immediately after the depression, and the project was one of the only large scale construction projects still ongoing in those difficult times. The pink and blue neon hotels of Miami Beach still remind us today of the elegant yet simple design characteristics of Art Deco. Industrial design thrived during the Art Deco period, and a fascinating variety of consumer goods were produced at all price ranges incorporating the streamlined Art Deco style. Even transportation mediums like trains and automobiles became aerodynamic. In fact, many of the most famous designs of the 20th century were designed in the Deco style - Rockefeller Center, the Golden Gate Bridge, movie theaters, gas stations, bus stations, diners, the S.S. Normandie, Greyhound buses, Air-King radios, and the Electrolux vacuum cleaner. Designers of Art Deco furniture embellished and sometimes entirely covered their pieces in exotic materials such as mother-of-pearl, sharkskin, snakeskin, gold and silver leaf, crushed egg shell lacquer and ivory. These materials usually formed some type of pattern such as flowers or a geometric motif. Well known Art Deco designers include Donald Deskey, Russel Wright, Norman Bel Geddes, Paul T. Frankel, and Emile-Jacques Ruhlman.

Man-made materials were incorporated into industrial design like plastics (bakelite, lucite), chrome, and aluminum. The use of plastic also made possible the production of consumer goods like radios inexpensively, in mass quantities, and in shapes and colors previously unattainable. Bakelite radios from this period like Spartan and Fada are highly collected, but at their time of production they were bringing colorful design and the sound of radio to the public through industrialization and mass production techniques. Manufacturers such as Chase and Farberware introduced streamlined shapes into even the world of cocktail shakers, best evidenced by the well known zeppelin design plus other interpretations of skyscrapers, etc. Art Deco interior design and furnishings also used materials like chrome and other metals, glass, and plastics in new and innovative ways and styles. Art Deco furnishings lend a sense of elegance and style in interior decorating, and the design constant of streamlining enables diverse furnishings to coexist seamlessly in a room to create a modern appearance. The graphic arts were also heavily influenced by Art Deco, and streamlining made its way into advertising in travel posters for ship or train travel and even the Coca-Cola bottle designed by Raymond Loewy. You can clearly see the influences of cubism pioneered by Picasso and Braque in Art Deco graphic arts, as reality is distorted by condensing the design to simple lines and angular shapes.

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Art Deco Chiparus: Master of Art Deco
Art Deco: 1910-1939
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