Art Deco & Early Modern Design

The shift to modern design left no aspect of life untouched! Here we explore the many aspects of Art Deco and early modern decorative arts and design including design of interiors, fashion, graphics, jewelry, and more! Hover over any image below to learn the topic of the article and for the option to read the full article. 

Of all the world’s great cities, none is so defined by its 1920s and 30s architecture, design, and culture as

New York!

 

This introduction gives an overview of what was happening in New York during the period. 

New York Deco: An Introduction

Susan Tunick explores how the sweeping changes that occurred in American architecture during the Art Deco era—especially in New York—were greatly amplified by the versatile qualities of terra cotta, a material that brought a new expressiveness to the buildings and skylines of cities across America.

Art Deco Terra Cotta

Rebecca McNamara explores how Deco was all in the details: sunbursts on iron gates; gold-leaf ceilings; Bakelite radios; stylized, geometric designs affecting nearly everything from posters to furnishings; but specifically a diminutive object held casually in the hand as smoke wafted in the air.

Diminutive Deco: Cigarette

Holders in the Jazz Age

Benjamin Macklowe & Zoe Groomes-Klotz explore what sets Art Deco jewelry apart is that, although it is now historical, when it was created, it represented newness––new global influences, new technologies, new art, and new materials.

Fine Jewelry from

the Age of Art Deco

Over forty years ago, Manhattan physician Robert Lerch purchased a red and black Bakelite clasp bracelet with a geometric Art Deco design. That was the beginning of a Bakelite collection that has grown to approximately 2,000 pieces of jewelry as well as 3,000 other objects, such as radios, buttons, clocks, boxes, umbrella handles, and knives.

A Bakelite Collector's Odyssey

Sarah D. Coffin and Emily M. Orr explore how, in the 1920s, boundaries between the industrial and the domestic––as well as the urban exterior and the private interior––were shifting and even dissolving, therefore vastly influencing the realm of design. 

From Skyscrapers to Silks
American Style in the 1920s

Kathleen Murphy Skolnik explores the stunning work of Thomas Hart Benton’s mural, America Today.

 

This striking panorama of American life in the 1920s gives a visual record of its rural, urban, and industrial landscapes and the impact of modern technology on its people. 

Thomas Hart Benton's

America Today

Thomas C. Folk looks at how Waylande Gregory, one of the leading American ceramists of the 1930s, created the first monumental ceramic sculptures and helped to elevate ceramics from a decorative to a fine art. Today, Gregory’s work is well represented in museum and private collections.

Waylande Gregory: 
A Cascade of Art Deco

Pierre Chareau was one of the most sought-after designers in France. His talent at integrating architecture and interior design into a harmonious entity attracted an elite clientele with a taste for the modern.

Pierre Chareau: Modern 
Architecture and Design

As a consultant for the Radio Corporation of America (RCA), John Vassos shaped the new media of television and radio. In addition to his industrial design work, the multitalented Vassos illustrated books and advertisements, painted murals, developed educational materials, and more!

John Vassos: Industrial 
Design for Modern Life

The streets of Paris are filled with Art Deco architecture and design delights just waiting to be experienced. In June 2016, eleven Art Deco Society of New York Board members and upper-level donors discovered many of them during a special six-day, Destination Deco, guided tour of the French capital organized by the Paris Art Deco Society.

Art Deco à la Française

Howard Mandelbaum & Eric Myers explore how the most lavish New York nightclubs of the 1920s and 30s became glamorous settings for the Hollywood dream factory's larger-than-life films.

Silver Screen Deco:

New York Nights

Silver Screen Deco:

New York Nights

In this unique article, Anthony W. Robins interviews the architect and remembers the wonderful Art Deco architecture and design of New York's old Horn & Hardart Automats with great affection.

Art Deco Automats in 1930:

Interview with the Architect

Andrew Scott Dolkart, Professor of Historic Preservation at Columbia, discusses his role in the discovery of New York’s only Lalique-designed glass building façade. It would have been destroyed but for his curiosity and determination. Restored and repaired, Lalique’s windows now sparkle!

Rescuing Lalique's Glass Façade

In this article, Nicholas Dawes explores how René Lalique is best known for thousands of glass designs, but he was a master of two careers. The first, as a jeweler, largely during La Belle Époque, lasted until he was in his early fifties. While much of his later work, in glass, is readily identifiable as Art Deco.

René Lalique:

Father of Art Deco?

Bill Miller explores how ocean liners were once described as the “greatest moving objects made by man.” And, how some say the Art Deco liners were the very best, absolutely the most glamorous and memorable of all the great ships. This article explores six of the best Art Deco examples!

Gone to Sea:

The Art Deco Ocean Liners

This is a review of the latest book from design historian Marilyn F. Friedman, which relates the evolution of modern American interior design and its acceptance by American consumers over the 1930s. 

Making America Modern:

Interior Design in the 1930s

Stephen Visakay explores Norman Bel Geddes iconic Manhattan cocktail set, with its sleek lines and gleaming chrome, and how it exemplifies the cocktail age and Art Deco styling. Legend has it that Bel Geddes was inspired by the New York skyline when creating this masterwork.

The Manhattan Cocktail Set

by Norman Bel Geddes

Design elements of Art Deco architecture and decorative arts include everything from the luxurious Egyptian motifs of King Tut’s tomb––the discovery in 1922 stirred the world’s imagination––to the futuristic art movements of Fauvism, Cubism, Bauhaus, and others.

Art Deco Origins & Influences

With the launching of this new Modern era came talent in many fields such as literature, music, performing arts, design, architecture, and so much more. This article explores how the 1920s were all about youth and jazz, hedonism, and optimism while the 1930s were marked by the harsh reality of the Great Depression. 

New International World

Want to learn more? The Art Deco Society of New York has been compiling a listing of books and materials that focus on Art Deco architecture, design, and the culture of the 1920s and 30s.

The list is by no means complete but there are wonderful materials for you to enjoy.

Book List