Art Deco | Definition, Characteristics, History, & Facts

What is Art Deco? I don’t know if it has a strong definition, as it is was more of a “movement” of style during it’s time. However “Merriam Webster” gives the definition, as, “: a popular design style of the 1920s and 1930s characterized especially by bold outlines, geometric and zigzag forms, and the use of new materials (such as plastic)”.
The term Art Deco came from the 1925 Paris Exhibition. The exhibition was called, The Great Exposition Des Arts Modernes Decoratifs Et Industriels. They shortened it to, “Art Deco, for the styles that came out of it.
Art Deco is most associated with the architecture that sprang up from the twenties, through the early 1940’s. It spread throughout the world, and can still be seen everywhere. Some areas are protected historic districts. In New York, some fine examples are, The Empire State Building, the Chrysler Building, and a “must see”, Rockefeller Center, which took a step further, designing the whole complex in Art Deco. Every building has something to be in awe of, from the giant gold plated sculpture, Prometheus, that everyone knows about, to the giant mural created by José Maria Sert, titled American Progress, the Mosaic, “Intelligence Awakening Mankind” fountains, archways, walkways, and much more, in Art Deco style.
In Chicago, another fine examples of Art Deco throughout the building, is the “Chicago Board of Trade Building”. Starting at the very top is a statue of Ceres, with geometric lines going all the way down, closer to the base, is where a magnificent clock sculpture awaits the eye. There is more Art Deco abound throughout Chicago. In many of the older buildings, you can still find beautiful stairways, light fixtures, ornate elevators, clocks, and artwork everywhere. You can walk around for hours in true amazement, enlightening the soul, and artistic being unknown to ones own self. Even the Chicago World Fair was a true devotion to Art Deco.
One of the most famous Art Deco districts, is in Miami Florida. This movement took on more of a colorful aspect, along with building design to draw tourists to the, “tropical playground”. There are vivid colors, round shapes, Mediterranean aspects, block glass windows, and more. Most of these buildings are protected, along the commercial district, as historical buildings, so we will always have them to go see.
One of the more true to the time, areas is in Havana, Cuba, where time has stood still. This is a must visit, for the art enthusiast. You can travel back in time, as there are still 1950’s cars on the roads. Many of the buildings are in a desperate state, but due to the work of organizations like “Habana Deco”, there is a movement to protect and possibly restore these marvels of art. There are beautiful examples throughout the city, from the commercial district, to residential areas, even a mausoleum boasts amazing doors, and glass roses. one of the finest examples of art deco is the famous Bacardi building, which had to be deserted by Bacardi, during the Cuban Revolution. It still maintains it’s opulent elegance, with red granite tiles, sculptures, and flowers, on the outside. It continues and blue mirrors, marble flooring, stained glass, and of course the famous mezzanine bar, on the inside.
There are many more examples of Art Deco architecture throughout the world, that made its grand entrance, from the Roaring Twenties until the Forties. In the early Forties, it was felt that, being that we were engrossed in a World War, that more attention should be spent towards the war effort, than opulence and flair.
Art Deco is not only architecture, it was also, jewelry, fashion, cars, furniture, ocean liners, and even household objects, such as radios. Jewelry was very vibrant, with colorful gemstones, diamonds, and platinum. These were of course, for the very affluent, however, “Bakelite” which is a type of plastic, was very prominent during the Art Deco period. It was an inexpensive costume jewelry that everyone could afford. It has come back now as a very collectible must have,
Furniture, is another important piece of the Art Deco history. How can you have an Art Deco building without the furniture to go with it? These include lighting which were very ornate. Wood furniture was made with exotic woods, that were heavily lacquered. Sometimes chrome and ivory were incorporated in to the pieces.
The Art Deco period is one of the most influential movements of history. You should look around you, embrace, and enjoy it.

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