About Art Déco

An “Art Déco style” never truly existed. The designation came into existence much later with the exhibition “Les Années 25” in the Parisian Museum of Decorative Art in 1966. Since that exhibition, it has become a custom to describe all sorts of things from the period between the wars (ca. from 1920 to 1940) as “Art Déco”.

Paris 1925

The name probably refers to the world exhibition “Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes” in Paris in 1925. The company name “Art Déco 1925” that Uwe Marbs chose in 1989 when founding his antique trade could therefore be understood as a homage to the exhibition.

The term “Art Déco”, however, is not only used for decorative art but also describes the zeitgeist of these two decades.

“If you want to describe a certain time, 
then it’s not important what survived, 
but rather what had the biggest impact” 
(Ludwig Marcuse, German philosopher and writer, 1894-1971)

The Great War changed the world. The early 1920s after the first world war were marked by a longing to forget, by dreams and visions – not by reality.

„For the young people of those times, they appeared to shine with a golden glow.
Those who were older could only experience melancholy, 
as they watched the world they knew fall apart around them. 
For the descendants, the picture will always be overshadowed 
by that what happened next“
(Peter Bamm, German journalist and writer, 1897-1975)

The era we today refer to as the “Roaring Twenties” began with a tendency towards straightforward precision, cool and discreet colours, hard, metallic gloss and elegantly drawn contours. This era was characterized by ideologically conditioned sharpness, concision, brightness, transparency, material sensibility and straightforwardness, as well as practicality. In arts and craft, painting, interior, sculpture and architecture, one felt just as committed to the noble decorative design character as to the beautiful, valuable materials, such as ivory and rare tropical wood. Influenced by Cubism and Expressionism, the Art Déco style spans from lacquered furniture by various well-known artists, such as Jacques-Émile Ruhlmann, Jules Leleu and Dominique, through precious glasses from Sabino, Etling and Charles Schneider, detailed sculptures by Demetre Chiparus, Ferdinand Preiss and Joé Descomps and jewellery by René Lalique, to the enchanting erotic paintings by Louis Icart. And if – as they say – a single piece of music can tell us about the entirety of a lost culture, how much more can an octagonal chrome-plated royal chandelier from Petitot tell us about just two decades!

Art Déco is rightly regarded as the most exciting era of 20th century art history, which had a massive historical impact, ranging from technology to morality. Today, the art of those years is experiencing increasing popularity. Therefore, there must be some parallels between then and now. Thoughts, forms and sounds seem to acquire a new meaning and are re-used in a different way. Art Déco combines history with modernity in a fascinating way and will no doubt continue to captivate us in the future.

List of references:

  • ART DECO 1920-1940, von Paul Menz,
    3. Auflage von 1984 erschienen im DuMont Buchverlag, Köln
  • ART DECO, von Albrecht Bangert / Gabriele Fahr-Becker,
    erschienen 1992 im Wilhelm Heyne Verlag GmbH & Co. KG, München
  • Wikipedia
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