Art Deco, sometimes referred to as Deco, is a style of visual arts, architecture and design that first appeared in France just before World War I. Art Deco influenced the design of buildings, furniture, jewelry, fashion, cars, movie theatres, trains, ocean liners, and everyday objects such as radios and vacuum cleaners. It took its name, short for Arts Décoratifs, from the Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes (International Exhibition of Modern Decorative and Industrial Arts) held in Paris in 1925. It combined modernist styles with fine craftsmanship and rich materials. During its heyday, Art Deco represented luxury, glamour, exuberance, and faith in social and technological progress.
Art Deco was a pastiche of many different styles, sometimes contradictory, united by a desire to be modern. From its outset, Art Deco was influenced by the bold geometric forms of Cubism; the bright colors of Fauvism and of the Ballets Russes; the updated craftsmanship of the furniture of the eras of Louis Philippe and Louis XVI; and the exotic styles of China and Japan, India, Persia, ancient Egypt and Maya art. It featured rare and expensive materials, such as ebony and ivory, and exquisite craftsmanship. The Chrysler Building and other skyscrapers of New York built during the 1920s and 1930s are monuments of the Art Deco style.
There was no section set aside for painting at the 1925 Exposition. Art deco painting was by definition decorative, designed to decorate a room or work of architecture, so few painters worked exclusively in the style, but two painters are closely associated with Art Deco. Jean Dupas painted Art Deco murals for the Bordeaux Pavilion at the 1925 Decorative Arts Exposition in Paris, and also painted the picture over the fireplace in the Maison de la Collectioneur exhibit at the 1925 Exposition, which featured furniture by Ruhlmann and other prominent Art Deco designers. His murals were also prominent in the decor of the French ocean liner SS Normandie. His work was purely decorative, designed as a background or accompaniment to other elements of the decor. The other painter closely associated with the style is Tamara de Lempicka. Born in Poland in an aristocratic family, she emigrated to Paris after the Russian Revolution. There she became a student of the artist Maurice Denis of the movement called Les Nabis and the Cubist André Lhote and borrowed many elements from their styles. She painted almost exclusively portraits in a realistic, dynamic and colorful Art Deco style.
In the 1930s a dramatic new form of Art Deco painting appeared in the United States. During the Great Depression, the Federal Art Project of the Works Progress Administration was created to give work to unemployed artists. Many were given the task of decorating government buildings, hospitals and schools. There was no specific art deco style used in the murals; artists engaged to paint murals in government buildings came from many different schools, from American regionalism to social realism; they included Reginald Marsh, Rockwell Kent and the Mexican painter Diego Rivera. The murals were Art Deco because they were all decorative and related to the activities in the building or city where they were painted: Reginald Marsh and Rockwell Kent both decorated U.S. postal buildings, and showed postal employees at work while Diego Rivera depicted automobile factory workers for the Detroit Institute of Arts. Diego Rivera’s mural American Progress for Rockefeller Center featured an unauthorized portrait of Lenin. When Rivera refused to remove Lenin, the painting was destroyed and a new mural was painted by the Spanish artist Josep Maria Sert.
Most of the sculpture of the Art Deco period was, as the name suggests, purely decorative; it was designed not for museums, but to ornament office buildings, government buildings, public squares, and private salons. It was almost always representational, usually of heroic or allegorical figures related to the purpose of the building; the themes were usually chosen by the patron, and abstract sculpture for decoration was extremely rare. It was frequently attached to facade of buildings, particularly over the entrance.
Allegorical sculptures of the dance and music by Antoine Bourdelle were the essential decorative feature of the earliest Art Deco landmark in Paris, the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées in Paris, in 1912. The sculptor Aristide Maillol reinvented the classical ideal for his statue of the River (1939), now at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. In the 1930s, a whole team of sculptors made sculpture for the 1937 Exposition Internationale des Arts et Techniques dans la Vie Moderne at Chaillot. The buildings of the Exposition were covered with low-relief sculpture, statues. Alfred Janniot made the relief sculptures on the facade of the Palais de Tokyo. The Paris City Museum of Modern Art, and the esplanade in front of the Palais de Chaillot, facing the Eiffel Tower, was crowded with new statuary by Charles Malfray, Henry Arnold, and many others.
In the United States, many European sculptors trained at the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris, came to work; they included Gutzon Borglum, sculptor of Mount Rushmore Lincoln Memorial. Other American sculptors, including Harriet Whitney Frishmuth, had studied with Auguste Rodin in Paris. The 1929 stock market crash largely destroyed the market for monumental sculpture, but one grand project remained; the new Rockefeller Center. The American sculptors Lee Lawrie and Paul Manship designed heroic allegorical figures for facade and plaza. In San Francisco, Ralph Stackpole provided sculpture for the facade of the new San Francisco Stock Exchange building.
One of the best known and certainly the largest Art Deco sculpture is the Christ the Redeemer by the French sculptor Paul Landowski, completed between 1922 and 1931, located on a mountain top overlooking Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. François Pompon was a pioneer of modern stylized animalier sculpture. He was not fully recognized for his artistic accomplishments until the age of 67 at the Salon d’Automne of 1922 with the work Ours blanc, also known as The White Bear, now in the Musée d’Orsay in Paris.
Many early Art Deco sculptures were small, designed to decorate salons. One genre of this sculpture was called the Chryselephantine statuette, named for a style of ancient Greek temple statues made of gold and ivory. One of the best-known Art Deco salon sculptors was the Romanian-born Demétre Chiparus, who produced colorful small sculptures of dancers. Other notable salon sculptors included Ferdinand Preiss, Josef Lorenzl, Alexander Kelety, Dorothea Charol and Gustav Schmidtcassel.
Parallel with these more neoclassical sculptors, more avant-garde and abstract sculptors were at work in Paris and New York. The most prominent were Constantin Brâncuși, Joseph Csaky, Alexander Archipenko, Henri Laurens, Jacques Lipchitz, Gustave Miklos, Jean Lambert-Rucki, Jan et Joël Martel, Chana Orloff, and Pablo Gargallo.
The Art Deco style appeared early in the graphic arts, in the years just before World War I. It appeared in Paris in the posters and the costume designs of Leon Bakst for the Ballets Russes, and in the catalogs of the fashion designers Paul Poiret. The illustrations of Georges Barbier, and Georges Lepape and the images in the fashion magazine La Gazette du bon ton perfectly captured the elegance and sensuality of the style. In the 1920s, the look changed; the fashions stressed were more casual, sportive and daring, with the woman models usually smoking cigarettes. American fashion magazines such as Vogue, Vanity Fair and Harper’s Bazaar quickly picked up the new style and popularized it in the United States. It also influenced the work of American book illustrators such as Rockwell Kent. In Germany, the most famous poster artist of the period was Ludwig Hohlwein, who created colorful and dramatic posters for music festivals, beers, and, late in his career, for the Nazi Party.
During the Art Nouveau period, posters usually advertised theatrical products or cabarets. In the 1920s, travel posters, made for steamship lines and airlines, became extremely popular. The style changed notably in the 1920s, to focus attention on the product being advertised. The images became simpler, precise, more linear, more dynamic, and were often placed against a single color background. In France popular Art Deco designers included, Charles Loupot and Paul Colin, who became famous for his posters of American singer and dancer Josephine Baker. Jean Carlu designed posters for Charlie Chaplin movies, soaps, and theaters; in the late 1930s he emigrated to the United States, where, during the World War, he designed posters to encourage war production. The designer Charles Gesmar became famous making posters for the singer Mistinguett and for Air France. Among the best known French Art Deco poster designers was Cassandre, who made the celebrated poster of the ocean liner SS Normandie in 1935.
In the 1930s a new genre of posters appeared in the United States during the Great Depression. The Federal Art Project hired American artists to create posters to promote tourism and cultural events.
The architectural style of art deco made its debut in Paris in 1903-04, with the construction of two apartment buildings in Paris, one by Auguste Perret on rue Trétaigne and the other on rue Benjamin Franklin by Henri Sauvage. The two young architects used reinforced concrete for the first time in Paris residential buildings; the new buildings had clean lines, rectangular forms, and no decoration on the facades; they marked a clean break with the art nouveau style. Between 1910 and 1913, Perret used his experience in concrete apartment buildings to construct the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées, 15 avenue Montaigne. Between 1925 and 1928 he constructed the new art deco facade of the La Samaritaine department store in Paris.
After the First World War, art deco buildings of steel and reinforced concrete began to appear in large cities across Europe and the United States. In the United States the style was most commonly used for office buildings, government buildings, movie theaters, and railroad stations. It sometimes was combined with other styles; Los Angeles City Hall combined Art Deco with a roof based on the ancient Greek Mausoleum at Halicarnassus, while the Los Angeles railroad station combined Deco with Spanish mission architecture. Art Deco elements also appeared in engineering projects, including the towers of the Golden Gate Bridge and the intake towers of Hoover Dam. In the 1920s and 1930s it became a truly international style, with examples including the Palacio de Bellas Artes (Palace of Fine Arts) in Mexico City by Federico Mariscal (es), the Mayakovskaya Metro Station in Moscow and the National Diet Building in Tokyo by Watanabe Fukuzo.
The Art Deco style was not limited to buildings on land; the ocean liner SS Normandie, whose first voyage was in 1935, featured Art Deco design, including a dining room whose ceiling and decoration were made of glass by Lalique.
Many of the best surviving examples of Art Deco are movie theaters built in the 1920s and 1930s. The Art Deco period coincided with the conversion of silent films to sound, and movie companies built enormous theaters in major cities to capture the huge audience that came to see movies. Movie palaces in the 1920s often combined exotic themes with art deco style; Grauman’s Egyptian Theater in Hollywood (1922) was inspired by ancient Egyptian tombs and pyramids, while the Fox Theater in Bakersfield, California attached a tower in California Mission style to an Art Deco hall. The largest of all is Radio City Music Hall in New York City, which opened in 1932. Originally designed as a stage theater, it quickly transformed into a movie theater, which could seat 6,015 persons The interior design by Donald Deskey used glass, aluminum, chrome, and leather to create a colorful escape from reality The Paramount Theater in Oakland, California, by Timothy Pflueger, had a colorful ceramic facade a lobby four stories high, and separate Art Deco smoking rooms for gentlemen and ladies. Similar grand palaces appeared in Europe. The Grand Rex in Paris (1932), with its imposing tower, was the largest movie theater in Europe. The Gaumont State Cinema in London (1937) had a tower modeled after the Empire State building, covered with cream-colored ceramic tiles and an interior in an Art Deco-Italian Renaissance style. The Paramount Theater in Shanghai, China (1933) was originally built as a dance hall called The gate of 100 pleasures; it was converted to a movie theater after the Communist Revolution in 1949, and now is a ballroom and disco. In the 1930s Italian architects built a small movie palace, the Cinema Impero, in Asmara in what is now Eritrea. Today, many of the movie theaters have been subdivided into multiplexes, but others have been restored and are used as cultural centers in their communities.
In the late 1930s, a new variety of Art Deco architecture became common; it was called Streamline Moderne or simply Streamline, or, in France, the Style Paqueboat, or Ocean Liner style. Buildings in the style were had rounded corners, long horizontal lines; they were built of reinforced concrete, and were almost always white; and sometimes had nautical features, such as railings that resembled those on a ship. The rounded corner was not entirely new; it had appeared in Berlin in 1923 in the Mossehaus by Erich Mendelsohn, and later in the Hoover Building, an industrial complex in the London suburb of Perivale. In the United States, it became most closely associated with transport; Streamline moderne was rare in office buildings, but was often used for bus stations and airport terminals, such as terminal at La Guardia airport in New York City that handled the first transatlantic flights, via the PanAm clipper flying boats; and in roadside architecture, such as gas stations and diners. In the late 1930s a series of diners, modeled after streamlined railroad cars, were produced and installed in towns in New England; at least two examples still remain and are now registered historic buildings.
Decoration and motifs:
Decoration in the Art Deco period went through several distinct phases. Between 1910 and 1920, as Art Nouveau was exhausted, design styles saw a return to tradition, particularly in the work of Paul Iribe. In 1912 André Vera published an essay in the magazine L’Art Décoratif calling for a return to the craftsmanship and materials of earlier centuries, and using a new repertoire of forms taken from nature, particularly baskets and garlands of fruit and flowers. A second tendency of Art Deco, also from 1910 to 1920, was inspired by the bright colors of the artistic movement known as the Fauves and by the colorful costumes and sets of the Ballets Russes. This style was often expressed with exotic materials such as sharkskin, mother of pearl, ivory, tinted leather, lacquered and painted wood, and decorative inlays on furniture that emphasized its geometry. This period of the style reached its high point in the 1925 Paris Exposition of Decorative Arts. In the late 1920s and the 1930s, the decorative style changed, inspired by new materials and technologies. It became sleeker and less ornamental. Furniture, like architecture, began to have rounded edges and to take on a polished, streamlined look, taken from the streamline moderne style. New materials, such as chrome-plated steel, aluminum and bakelite, an early form of plastic, began to appear in furniture and decoration.
Throughout the Art Deco period, and particularly in the 1930s, the motifs of the decor expressed the function of the building. Theaters were decorated with sculpture which illustrated music, dance, and excitement; power companies showed sunrises, the Chrysler building showed stylized hood ornaments; The friezes of Palais de la Porte Dorée at the 1931 Paris Colonial Exposition showed the faces of the different nationalities of French colonies. The Streamline style made it appear that the building itself was in motion. The WPA murals of the 1930s featured ordinary people; factory workers, postal workers, families and farmers, in place of classical heroes.
French furniture from 1910 until the early 1920s was largely an updating of French traditional furniture styles, and the art nouveau designs of Louis Majorelle, Charles Plumet and other manufacturers. French furniture manufacturers felt threatened by the growing popularity of German manufacturers and styles, particularly the Biedermeier style, which was simple and clean-lined. The French designer Frantz Jourdain, the President of the Paris Salon d’Automne, invited designers from Munich to participate in the 1910 Salon. French designers saw the new German style, and decided to meet the German challenge. The French designers decided to present new French styles in the Salon of 1912. The rules of the Salon indicated that only modern styles would be permitted. All of the major French furniture designers took part in Salon: Paul Follot, Paul Iribe, Maurice Dufrene, André Groult, André Mare and Louis Süe took part, presenting new works that updated the traditional French styles of Louis XVI and Louis Philippe with more angular corners inspired by Cubism and brighter colors inspired by Fauvism and the Nabis.
The painter André Mare and furniture designer Louis Suë both participated the 1912 Salon. After the War the two men joined together to form their own company, formally called the Compagnie des Arts Française, but usually known simply as Suë and Mare. Unlike the prominent art nouveau designers like Louis Majorelle, who personally designed every piece, they assembled a team of skilled craftsmen and produced complete interior designs, including furniture, glassware, carpets, ceramics, wallpaper and lighting. Their work featured bright colors and furniture and fine woods, such ebony encrusted with mother of pearl, abalone and silvered metal to create bouquets of flowers. They designed everything from the interiors of ocean liners to perfume bottles for the label of Jean Patou.The firm prospered in the early 1920s, but the two men were better craftsmen than businessmen. The firm was sold in 1928, and both men left.
The most prominent furniture designer at the 1925 Decorative Arts Exposition was Émile-Jacques Ruhlmann, from Alsace. He first exhibited his works at the 1913 Autumn Salon, then had his own pavilion, the “House of the Rich Collector”, at the 1925 Exposition. He used only most rare and expensive materials, including ebony, mahogany, rosewood, ambon and other exotic woods, decorated with inlays of ivory, tortoise shell, mother of pearl, Little pompoms of silk decorated the handles of drawers of the cabinets. His furniture was based upon 18th century models, but simplified and reshaped. In all of his work, the interior structure of the furniture was completely concealed. The framework usually of oak, was completely covered with an overlay of thin strips of wood, then covered by a second layer of strips of rare and expensive woods. This was then covered with a veneer and polished, so that the piece looked as if it had been cut out of a single block of wood. Contrast to the dark wood was provided by inlays of ivory, and ivory key plates and handles. According to Ruhlmann, armchairs had to be designed differently according to the functions of the rooms where they appeared; living room armchairs were designed to be welcoming, office chairs comfortable, and salon chairs voluptuous. Only a small number of pieces of each design of furniture was made, and the average price of one of his beds or cabinets was greater than the price of an average house.
Jules Leleu was a traditional furniture designer who moved smoothly into Art Deco in the 1920s; he designed the furniture for the dining room of the Elysee Palace, and for the first-class cabins of the steamship Normandie. his style was characterized by the use of ebony, Macassar wood, walnut, with decoration of plaques of ivory and mother of pearl. He introduced the style of lacquered art deco furniture at the end of in the late 1920s, and in the late 1930s introduced furniture made of metal with panels of smoked glass. In Italy, the designer Gio Ponti was famous for his streamlined designs. In the United States,
The costly and exotic furniture Ruhlmann and other traditionalists infuriated modernists, including the architect Le Corbusier, causing him to write a famous series of articles denouncing the arts décoratif style. He attacked furniture made only for the rich, and called upon designers to create furniture made with inexpensive materials and modern style, which ordinary people could afford. He designed his own chairs, created to be inexpensive and mass-produced.
In the 1930s, furniture designs adapted to the form, with smoother surfaces and curved forms. The masters of the late style included Donald Deskey was one of the most influential designers; he created the interior of the Radio City Music Hall. He used a mixture of traditional and very modern materials, including aluminum, chrome, and bakelite, an early form of plastic.
Streamline was a variety of Art Deco which emerged during the mid-1930s. It was influenced by modern aerodynamic principles developed for aviation and ballistics to reduce air friction at high velocities. The bullet shapes were applied by designers to cars, trains, ships, and even objects not intended to move, such as refrigerators, gas pumps, and buildings. One of the first production vehicles in this style was the Chrysler Airflow of 1933. It was unsuccessful commercially, but the beauty and functionality of its design set a precedent; meant modernity. It continued to be used in car design well after World War II.
New industrial materials began to influence design of cars and household objects. These included aluminum, chrome, and bakelite, an early form of plastic. Bakelite could be easily molded into different forms, and soon was used in telephones, radios and other appliances.
Ocean liners also adopted a style of Art Deco, known in French as the Style Paquebot, or “Ocean Liner Style”. The most famous example was the SS Normandie, which made its first transatlantic trip in 1935. It was designed particularly to bring wealthy Americans to Paris to shop. The cabins and salons featured the latest Art Deco furnishings and decoration. The Grand Salon of the ship, which was the restaurant for first-class passengers, was bigger than the Hall of Mirrors of the Palace of Versailles. It was illuminated by electric lights within twelve pillars of Lalique crystal; thirty-six matching pillars lined the walls. This was one of the earliest examples of illumination being directly integrated into architecture. The style of ships was soon adapted to buildings. A notable example is found on the San Francisco waterfront, where the Maritime Museum building, built as a public bath in 1937, resembles a ferryboat, with ship railings and rounded corners. The Star Ferry Terminal in Hong Kong also used a variation of the style.
In the 1920s and 1930s, designers including René Lalique and Cartier tried reduce the traditional dominance of diamonds by introducing more colorful gemstones, such as small emeralds, rubies and sapphires. They also placed greater emphasis on very elaborate and elegant settings, featuring less-expensive materials such as enamel, glass, horn and ivory. Diamonds themselves were cut in less traditional forms; the 1925 Exposition saw a large number of diamonds cut in the form of tiny rods or matchsticks. The settings for diamonds also changed; More and more often jewelers used platinum instead of gold, since it was strong and flexible, and could set clusters of stones. Jewelers also began to use more dark materials, such as enamels and black onyx, which provided a higher contrast with diamonds.
Jewelry became much more colorful and varied in style. Cartier and the firm of Boucheron combined diamonds with colorful other gemstones cut into the form of leaves, fruit or flowers. to make brooches, rings, earrings, clips and pendants Far Eastern themes also became popular; plaques of jade and coral were combined with platinum and diamonds, and vanity cases, cigarette cases and powder boxes were decorated with Japanese and Chinese landscapes made with mother of pearl, enamel and lacquer.
Rapidly changing fashions in clothing brought new styles of jewelry. Sleeveless dresses of the 1920s meant that arms needed decoration, and designers quickly created bracelets of gold, silver and platinum encrusted with lapis-lazuli, onyx, coral, and other colorful stones; Other bracelets were intended for the upper arms, and several bracelets were often worn at the same time. The short haircuts of women in the twenties called for elaborate deco earring designs. As women began to smoke in public, designers created very ornate cigarette cases and ivory cigarette holders. The invention of the wrist-watch before World War I inspired jewelers to create extraordinary decorated watches, encrusted with diamonds and plated with enamel, gold and silver. Pendant watches, hanging from a ribbon, also became fashionable.
The established jewelry houses of Paris in the period, Cartier, Chaumet, Georges Fouquet, Mauboussin, and Van Cleef & Arpels all created jewellry and objects in the new fashion. The firm of Chaumet made highly geometric cigarette boxes, cigarette lighters, pillboxes and notebooks, made of hard stones decorated with jade, lapis lazuli, diamonds and sapphires. They were joined by many young new designers, each with his own idea of deco. Raymond Templier designed pieces with highly intricate geometric patterns, including silver earrings that looked like skyscrapers. Gerard Sandoz was only 18 when he started to design jewelry in 1921; he designed many celebrated pieces based on the smooth and polished look of modern machinery. The glass designer René Lalique also entered the field, creating pendants of fruit, flowers, frogs, fairies of mermaids made of sculpted glass in bright colors, hanging on cords of silk with tassels. The jeweler Paul Brandt contrasted rectangular and triangular patterns, and embedded pearls in lines on onyx plaques. Jean Despres made necklaces of contrasting colors by bringing together silver and black lacquer, or gold with lapis lazuli. Many of his designs looked like highly polished pieces of machines. Jean Dunand was also inspired by modern machinery, combined with bright reds and blacks contrasting with polished metal.
Like the Art Nouveau period before it, Art Deco was an exceptional period for fine glass and other decorative objects, designed to fit their architectural surroundings. The most famous producer of glass objects was René Lalique, whose works, from vases to hood ornaments for automobiles, became symbols of the period. He had made ventures into glass before World War I, designing bottles for the perfumes of François Coty, but he did not begin serious production of art glass until after World War I. In 1918, at the age of 58, he bought a large glass works in Combs-la-Ville and began to manufacture both artistic and practical glass objects. He treated glass as a form of sculpture, and created statuettes, vases, bowls, lamps and ornaments. He used demi-crystal rather than lead crystal, which was softer and easier to form, though not as lustrous. He sometimes used colored glass, but more often used opalescent glass, where part or the whole of the outer surface was stained with a wash. Lalique provided the decorative glass panels, lights and illuminated glass ceilings for the ocean liners SS Ile de France in 1927 and the SS Normandie in 1935, and for some of the first-class sleeping cars of the French railroads. At the 1925 Exposition of Decorative Arts, he had his own pavilion, designed a dining room with a table settling and matching glass ceiling for the Sèvres Pavilion, and designed a glass fountain for the courtyard of the Cours des Métier, a slender glass column which spouted water from the sides and was illuminated at night.
Other notable Art Deco glass manufacturers included Marius-Ernest Sabino, who specialized in figurines, vases, bowls, and glass sculptures of fish, nudes, and animals. For these he often used an opalescent glass which could change from white to blue to amber, depending upon the light. His vases and bowls featured molded friezes of animals, nudes or busts of women with fruit or flowers. His work was less subtle but more colorful than that of Lalique.
Other notable Deco glass designers included Edmond Etling, who also used bright opalescent colors, often with geometric patterns and sculpted nudes; Albert Simonet, and Aristide Colotte and Maurice Marinot, who was known for his deeply etched sculptural bottles and vases. The firm of Daum from the city of Nancy, which had been famous for its Art Nouveau glass, produced a line of Deco vases and glass sculpture, solid, geometric and chunky in form. More delicate multicolored works were made by Gabriel Argy-Rousseau, who produced delicately colored vases with sculpted butterflies and nymphs, and Francois Decorchemont, whose vases were streaked and marbled.
The Great Depression ruined a large part of the decorative glass industry, which depended upon wealthy clients. Some artists turned to designing stained glass windows for churches. In 1937, the Steuben glass company began the practice of commissioning famous artists to produce glassware. Louis Majorelle, famous for his Art Nouveau furniture, designed a remarkable Art Deco stained glass window portraying steel workers for the offices of the Aciéries de Longwy, a steel mill in Longwy, France.
Art Deco artists produced a wide variety of practical objects in the Art Deco style, made of industrial materials from traditional wrought iron to chrome-plated steel. The American artist Norman Bel Geddes designed a cocktail set resembling a skyscraper made of chrome-plated steel. Raymond Subes designed an elegant metal grille for the entrance of the Palais de la Porte Dorée, the centerpiece of the 1931 Paris Colonial Exposition. The French sculptor Jean Dunand produced magnificent doors on the theme “The Hunt”, covered with gold leaf and paint on plaster (1935).
Art Deco was not a single style, but a collection of different and sometimes contradictory styles. In architecture, Art Deco was the successor to and reaction against Art Nouveau, a style which flourished in Europe between 1895 and 1900, and also gradually replaced the Beaux-Arts and neoclassical that were predominant in European and American architecture. In 1905 Eugène Grasset wrote and published Méthode de Composition Ornementale, Éléments Rectilignes, in which he systematically explored the decorative (ornamental) aspects of geometric elements, forms, motifs and their variations, in contrast with (and as a departure from) the undulating Art Nouveau style of Hector Guimard, so popular in Paris a few years earlier. Grasset stressed the principle that various simple geometric shapes like triangles and squares are the basis of all compositional arrangements. The reinforced concrete buildings of Auguste Perret and Henri Sauvage, and particularly the Theatre des Champs-Elysees, offered a new form of construction and decoration which was copied worldwide.
In decoration, many different styles were borrowed and used by Art Deco. They included pre-modern art from around the world and observable at the Musée du Louvre, Musée de l’Homme and the Musée national des Arts d’Afrique et d’Océanie. There was also popular interest in archeology due to excavations at Pompeii, Troy, and the tomb of the 18th dynasty Pharaoh Tutankhamun. Artists and designers integrated motifs from ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, Greece, Rome, Asia, Mesoamerica and Oceania with Machine Age elements.
Other styles borrowed included Russian Constructivism and Italian Futurism, as well as Orphism, Functionalism, and Modernism in general. Art Deco also used the clashing colors and designs of Fauvism, notably in the work of Henri Matisse and André Derain, inspired the designs of art deco textiles, wallpaper, and painted ceramics. It took ideas from the high fashion vocabulary of the period, which featured geometric designs, chevrons, zigzags, and stylized bouquets of flowers. It was influenced by discoveries in Egyptology, and growing interest in the Orient and in African art. From 1925 onwards, it was often inspired by a passion for new machines, such as airships, automobiles and ocean liners, and by 1930 this influence resulted in the style called streamline moderne.