Information on the subject of "Art Déco"

In its permanent exhibition Galerie Claude presents works by some of the most fascinating artists of the Art Deco period with the likes of Jacques-Emile Ruhlmann, Eugène Printz, Pierrre Legrain and Edgar Brandt on display; an era between war and hope, defined by social upheaval, social change and the growth of large scale industry – in short a period of innovation. Where then does Art Deco come from and what makes it so interesting to us today? The term was first coined at the end of the 1960‘s as an abbreviated form of the “Exposition Internationale des Arts Decoratifs et Industriels Modernes“ that took place in Paris in 1925 and which is now recognized as the most influential exhibition of applied arts of the twentieth century. Art historians regard Art Deco as the most dominant applied arts style of the period between the First and Second World Wars and as something which stands for both art and kitsch, luxury and serial production.

The origins of Art Deco can however be traced back to before the First World War, developed out of the need to find a new style which was not rooted in the past and which did not copy old styles. Although this was not completely archieved, Art Deco did succeed in re-mixing old stylistic ingredients and presenting them in a completely new way. Influenced by cubism, naturally occurring forms were reduced to their essence, leading to geometric styles and abstraction. Although – or perhaps because – Art Deco had no philosophy, manifesto or founder, it became the consumer style of the middle classes. It simply came into being because of a need to adapt to the demands and the requirements of a newly-structured society. People at the time wanted to be fashionable and modern, and everyday life needed to be “ à la mode“. Art Deco was modern, because it brought the world of technology into the world of art. As a style representative of a time where changes occurred daily, Art Deco itself needed to be flexible and constantly adapt to these new developments. In this process the concepts of leading French designers played a pivotal role in the Art Deco movement. They can be divided into two main groups: the traditionalists and the modernists. The traditionalists (e.g. Ruhlmann, Leleu, Sue et Mare) re-shaped conventional thinking according to the principles of modern art. They wanted to produce fashionable, decorative, luxury articles in small numbers and in the finest materials, in stark contrast to the Modernists (e.g. Le Corbusier, Mallet-Stevens, Herbst) who amed to make use of the possibilities of the industrial age and use new materials such as chrome, laminated wood and bakelite to produce aesthetic and practical objects for everybody.

The movement within traditional Art Deco cannot always be separated from the more modern movement of the time. Sumptuous decor and a strict geometry both exist, and many examples of an inter-mingling of these two tendencies are prevalent during this period; even in the works of individual designers developments interchange from one concept to another. The Second World War caused an abrupt end to the continuation of this innovative time and allows a clear distinction to be made between the pre-war style and later movements and trends. However the Second World War had by no means damaged the Art Deco movement and from the 1970‘s onwards it re-emerged and can now be seen everywhere and shows few signs of waning. On the contrary, the principles of this period are still relevant today, and their potential is still far from realised, meaning that Art Deco continues and will continue to unfluence contemporary design.

The essence and fascination of this style derives from two basic principles:

1. The art of the craftsman. To date, Art Deco is the last great stilistic movement, which in all aspects of modern life produced articles of the highest quality comparable with the best Ebenistes of the 18th century. The victory of the Modrnists and mass-production, which was part of this, also led to the decline of the craftsmen. 
2. The design principle. For the first time in history there were artists who worked across the spectrum of the arts with materials and processes completely new to them. The new comprehensive role of the architect who designed furniture as well as carpets, lamps, porcelain and metal ware and who then had these items produced by specialists was unprecedented to this extent. Unperturbed by the problems that could arise during production, the designer was able to create form and function still held in high regard today and thought of as completely modern.


Claus Friedrich