Jazz Age flappers in spangles and pearls, sharp city skyscrapers gleaming with steel, the parchment- and marquetry-studded interiors of Jean-Michel Frank—there’s no other period quite as soigné and urbane as Art Deco. Celebrating modernity in all its forms, the style had its marquee moment at the 1925 Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Moderne in Paris and the look of luxury has never been the same since.
Accentuating sleek, rectilinear shapes, symmetry, and technology, the goal was a chic brand of glamour that emphasized a giddy optimism for the future. So many touchstones of sophistication bear Art Deco marks: the Chrysler Building, furniture by Émile-Jacques Ruhlmann, gowns by Jeanne Lanvin. The aesthetic embraced technology but didn’t abandon traditional techniques, emphasizing craftsmanship and embracing rich materials such as ebony, leather, and ivory as readily as it did concrete and steel.
Though it grew out of a reaction to the organic motifs of Art Nouveau, it nevertheless has its roots in that earlier, frond-filled movement—with lines modified by pared-down proportions and rigid geometry—and like Art Nouveau, Art Deco was the result of a grab bag of inspirations. Cubism, folk art, and archeology, among many other influences, all had a hand in its striking, alluring appeal.
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