- The History of Art Deco
WHAT IS ART DECO AND WHERE DID IT ALL BEGIN?
“In olden days a glimpse of stocking was thought of something as shocking. Now heaven knows, anything goes!” Cole Porter’s lyrics from Anything Goes, the perennially popular musical of the 1930s, perfectly summed up the spirit of the interwar years around the world. Wealthy Americans were hosting Jay Gatsby-style parties during Prohibition, the British were adjusting to a society where the aristocracy was slowly being eroded and Sydneysiders were excited by the opening of the Sydney Harbour Bridge that finally linked the two halves of the city.
This spirit of change, innovation and energy was visually united around the globe - from Miami to Mumbai to Melbourne - by a design style that came to be known as Art Deco. It first appeared in 1925 at the International Exhibition of the Decorative Arts held in Paris, but was not known as Art Deco until the 1960s. Even without a label it became the predominant style for the interwar generation and its influence was seen in architecture, fashion, art, furniture, jewellery and design in general. Art Deco moved away from the over-the-top flourishes of the Beaux Arts style and romanticism of Art Nouveau to create a style that spoke to the future - while also drawing on influences from the past.
The style’s distinctive features included strong linear elements, stepped facades and ornamentation that drew its inspiration from sources including Middle Eastern architecture, Ancient Greek and Roman themes and also Ancient Egyptian and Mayan elements. In addition, Art Deco incorporated motifs from the exciting modern age - a time when trans-continental air travel became possible, motor cars became more prevalent and radio sales overtook the traditional family entertainment unit, the piano. These modern motifs included stylised machine patterns like gears and wheels as well as elegant interpretations of sunbursts and flowers.