Wednesday, 16 January 2013


V&A Museum

The term Art Deco refers to a style that spanned the boom of the roaring 1920s and the bust of the Depression-ridden 1930s. It affected all forms of design, from the fine and decorative arts to fashion, film, photography, transport and product design. In 2003, the V&A hosted the major exhibition Art Deco: 1910-1939.

This content was originally written in association with the exhibition 'Art Deco: 1910-1939', on display at the V&A South Kensington from 27 March - 20 July 2003. 

1. Jazz jar and cover, Enouch Boulton, about 1928. Museum no. CIRC.526-1974
2. Sunray vase, Clarice Cliff, about 1929. Museum no. C.74-1976

Art Deco: Design Influences

1. Hand-coloured pochoir stencil by Georges Lepape, from 'Les Choses de Paul Poiret', France, about 1911. Museum no. CIRC.262-1976.

2. Painted stoneware plate by Cuthbert Hamilton for The Rebel Arts Centre, London, UK, about 1915. Museum no. C.120-1984

Art Deco: Global Inspiration

Art Deco was an eclectic style and drew on many sources. Designers sought to infuse jaded traditions with new life and to create a modern style based on a revitalised decorative language, drawing on distant and ancient cultures. V&A museum


Egypt held a particular fascination for artists and designers. The discovery of the tomb of the boy pharaoh Tutankhamun, by Howard Carter in November 1922, sparked enormous popular interest in all things Egyptian. The wealth of funerary goods extracted from the tomb included chariots, furniture, mummy cases, spectacular gold jewellery and the extraordinary gold mask of the pharaoh.  V&A museum

1. Hand-beaded lurex jacket with Egyptian motifs, Paris, France, 1922-25. Museum no. T.91-1999

2. 'Europa and the Bull', lino printed linen furnishing fabric, by Frank & Mary Dobson, London, UK, 1938. Museum no. CIRC.104-1939

Art Deco: The 1925 Paris Exhibition

 1. Colour woodblock poster for the Paris 1925 Exhibition, by Robert Bonfils for Imprimerie Vaugirard, Paris, France, 1925. Museum no. E.1200-1925
2. Mannequin head. unknown maker, 1925. Museum no. T.3-2002

Art Deco: Exotic and Moderne

The exotic touched every aspect of contemporary life. Motifs such as lotus flowers, tropical birds and animals, dancing girls and native figures became commonplace. Tropical woods and exotic materials such as ebony, ivory, sharkskin and lacquer gave luxurious and sensuous effects. V&A museum

1. La Danse furnishing fabric, designed by Raoul Dufy for Bianchini-Férier, about 1920. Museum no. CIRC.113-1939

Art Deco around the world

The Deco world.

In many parts of the world, Art Deco stood for modernity and the escape from convention. It offered an accessible image of modern life and progress, more fun than competing forms of design such as Modernism. At the same time, designers could adapt Art Deco to convey national or local identities and meanings, using native decorative forms and subject matter. V&A museum

1. Bacchante furnishing fabric, Michael O'Connell, 1939. Museum no. CIRC.472-1939
Art Deco Objects in Detail

Stylised Nature

Geometry and Abstraction

Jeanne Lanvin's 1930s evening dresses, reflected the characteristic clean lines of the Deco style and were the epitome of refined and sophisticated elegance. She frequently combined simple, long and fluid forms with severe geometry.

This figure-hugging, bias cut evening gown is adorned with a structured collar, covered with narrow parallel rows of stitching. The geometric stitching not only re-inforces the fabric to allow the collar to keep its shape, but also serves a decorative purpose.

The use of reflective satin in fashion of the 1930s, often in pale colours, is also characteristic of a wider interest in Art Deco in the manipulation of light and surface sheen. V&A museum.

Evening gown, Jeanne Lanvin, winter 1935. Museum no. T.340-1965

In the 1920s, women wore exotic evening coats, mantles or shawls to cover their bare shoulders and arms. Fashion designers created boleros, and short capes to emphasise the length and fluid shapes of the evening gowns of the 1930s. The short cape created by Lanvin to accompany this dress shows a very avant-garde design for the period. Its architectural shape, the off-the-neck gigantic collar and the use of huge buttons herald, almost 20 years before its time, a style developed by Balenciaga in the mid 1950s.
The cape is made of silk velvet which has been ruched to achieve the effect of Astrakhan fur. The dense and intricate optical effects of the velvet enhances the purity of the dress' satin. This cape is a very good example of Lanvin's consummate knowledge of fabrics and of her characteristic love of textures. V&A museum.

Josephine Baker 

Josephine Baker is an international star of sensational, exotic cabarets including La Revue Nègre, and Folies Bergère in Paris and Berlin. She was born on 3 June 1906 in St Louis, Missouri.  Most famously, Josephine Baker was joined in her act at the Casino de Paris by a cheetah, Chiquita, a gift from Henri Varna, the club's owner. Varna's idea was that the cheetah would complement perfectly Josephine's image; half exotic, untamed creature; half elegant beauty and sophistication. V&A museum.

2. Josephine Baker figure, Fritz Lampl, about 1930. Museum no. C.22-1995

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