Interwar Culture

Whether you are looking into the Roaring 20s, Prohibition, the Jazz Age, the Great Depression, or the Machine Age there are countless developments that fostered the unique culture of the1920s and 30s.

Hover over any image below to learn the topic of the article and for the option to read the full article. 

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.

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. 

It is commonly believed that architects and designers are influenced by and reflect the culture of the period in which they work. To better understand the cultural influences on designers of the Art Deco period, this timeline offers a listing of some events that may have inspired them. 

Early Twentieth Century

Cultural Events Timeline

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

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

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

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

Maddy Lederman explores when Prohibition became the law of the land and how alcohol was thought to be effectively banned. However, what followed was a fascination with alcohol that ran like wildfire into the American collective consciousness.

Cocktail Culture

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, and knives.

A Bakelite Collector's Odyssey

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

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

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

The 1920s and 30s were a period of dramatic change vividly reflected in literary masterpieces written by giants of the twentieth century. This reading list includes works by important authors who shaped and transformed the decade. 

Significant Literature of

the 1920s & 30s

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