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How Art Shapes Our Lives: Art Deco

By Sal Maccarone

Born in the 1920s in reaction to the somberness of World War One, the Art Deco style was opulent and prolific. Based upon the use of geometric shapes and simple mathematics, this style reflected the modern and festive post-war spirit of the time.

The name Art Deco was coined after the Exposition Internationale des Arts Decoratifs Industriels et Modernes, held in Paris in 1925.

Art Deco is considered to be an eclectic form influenced by many different cultures, including the arts of Africa, ancient Egypt, Babylon, and the Aztecs of Mexico.

Characterized by the use of materials such as stainless steel, aluminum, polished wood, precious metals, tortoise shell, lacquer, leather, and sharkskin, this style is hard to mistake.

Golden Gate Bridge

Golden Gate Bridge

The ability for world travel and the many excavations that were taking place during the 1920s and 1930s influenced artists and architects in a very big way. The intrigue with the much-publicized subject of archaeology brought artists new motifs which they promptly incorporated into their own art.

Discoveries such as the lost city of Pompeii and the tomb of Tutankhamen helped produce fresh ideas and ways of thinking in all artistic categories.

Furniture, stained glass, pottery, jewelry, fashion, sculpture, and painting are just a few of the disciplines that were influenced.

Art Deco was the showcase of a modern society in which tastes were becoming international. From the Roaring Twenties in the United States to the gentry of Old Europe, all were embracing this style.

Chrysler Building at night

Chrysler Building at night

Art Deco also drew from modern aviation and the machine age.

Automobiles and even bicycles were taking on new shapes.

Art Deco also owed something to many of the major art styles of the twentieth century, such as the geometry of Cubism. The look of the day was “streamlined” and Art Deco was its cause. It represented the modernization of the world!

As a direct result, Art Deco architecture of all kinds flourished in large cities and small towns throughout America in the 1920s and 1930s.

Our own Ahwahnee Hotel and Golden Gate Bridge were designed and built during this time.

Some of the best Art Deco examples in this country include office buildings, movie theaters, hotels, and churches.

Many of these are still in use today and are considered as national treasures. This includes the Empire State Building and the Chrysler Building in New York.

While architects, artists, and designers in this country drew on European styles, they seemed to be most committed to a regional pride and a national symbolism that made their art uniquely American.

For some great examples of this style, please visit Decopix.com.

And here is a great short movie about the Art Deco style:


Chrysler Building

Chrysler Building in NYC














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