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» » Art Deco of the Roaring twenties

Art Deco of the Roaring twenties

December 2021 | Galerie Atena


Table basse Art Déco en palissandre et verre

 Art Deco rosewood Coffee Table

Who hasn't dreamed of having a drink in a sublime Art Deco setting like living in the Great Gatsby? Often considered as the emblematic aesthetic of the Roaring Twenties, Art Deco is a very rich artistic movement as much in its diversity of forms as in the quality of its creations. It represents the escape of a carefree youth who wants to rebuild itself after a devastating war. But how was born this style so characteristic of an era?


How Art Deco was born?


It is "all the nervous tension accumulated and not spent during the war" said Scott Fitzgerald in Jazz Age in 1931.


Table à thé Art nouveau en bois à décor de marqueterie polychrome

Art Nouveau Tea Table

Chevet en placage palissandre Art Déco

Rosewood Veneer Art Déco bedside table

However, this style appeared in the 1910s. While Art Nouveau was still raging, its vegetal curves were not always popular. They are indecent and ridiculous for its critics who call it the "noodle style". They seek a greater simplicity of lines and more sober forms. It is a kind of return to order that is already felt in the German and Viennese creations. It also comes from an aesthetic disruption with Serge Diaghilev's Ballets Russes inspired by A Thousand and One Nights composed of dances, music and paintings in 1909. It's a resurgence of the Orient as a main source of inspiration in artistic creations as well as in the Parisian social life. The famous Paul Poiret organized a costume ball at his home called the Thousand and Second Night where many artists were invited. It was a new era taking shape. Unfortunately, the First World War broke out in 1914, interrupting all these new reflections in their momentum.


 Art Deco Bedroom set

It is back from the battlefields that Art Deco flourishes. It is the Roaring Twenties, the youth throws itself into permanent pleasure to forget the horrors of the trenches. They were looking for entertainment and fun. The New Style, modern style or modern Zig Zag as it was called, was created. It is in Paris that it becomes important. In the capital of delights, is held in 1925 the International Exhibition of Decorative Arts and Modern Industries. This commercial fair presented 21 different countries and was visited by more than 16 million people. In eight months, it revolutionized the architecture and decorative arts of the world. This style was found in hotels, bars and cinemas. All the luxurious and comfortable places visited by the youth of the 1920s. The rapid spread of this aesthetic is carried by americans that comes to benefit from the devalued French franc. Derivatives of this style can be found in Brazil, Japan and especially in the United States, which became the cradle of the Stream line style.


The world rebuilds new cubic architectures turned to modernity with geometric decorations. Escape and modernity are represented by bold choices, sometimes provocative. The simplification of the lines is agreed upon, but this does not mean an impoverishment of the creations. Inspirations came from all regions of the world: Japan, China, the Far East or Africa. New exotic materials or those resulting from technological progress are explored. The Roaring Twenties bring their share of innovations that changes the decorative landscape.


Art Deco decors

Miroir Art déco attribué à Maurice Dufrêne (1876-1955)

Art Deco Mirror Attributed to Maurice Dufrêne (1876-1955)

Vitrine Art Déco, par Charles Dudouyt

Art Deco Displaycase by Charles Dudouyt

Fauteuil Art Deco en placage de palissandre de Rio

Art Deco armchair in Rio rosewood verneer


In the years 1920-1930, a new concept appears, the concept of artist decorator who propose unique furniture adapted to the taste of the youth. We see great names like Ruhlmann, Jules Leleu or Paul Iribe. In our collections, we have Maurice Dufrêne or Charles Dudouyt. Free of manifesto, they can launch themselves freely towards new forms which make the fame of the period of the Roaring Twenties while remaining faithful to the forms of the past. They try to modernize the tradition. Art Deco is a kind of return to order accentuated with the crisis of 1929 and the global economic depression of the 1930s.


Détail de roses sur le miroir attribué à Maurice Dufrêne (1876-1955)

Detail of the roses on the Art Deco mirror attributed to Maurice Dufrêne



Perhaps the most know caracteristic of Art Deco is the rejection of the sinuous Art Nouveau line. The focus shifts to softer, more lyrical imagery. An approach to simplification that comes first from sober neoclassicism before turning to the art of the Avant-Gardes: cubism, orphism, German expressionism, even if they are not necessarily distinguished from each other, which offer a new pictorial language. It is an evolution towards geometry which is considered as the essence of the modern mechanized world. The forms are pure, circles, squares and straight lines. Nature itself loses its wildness with synthesized forms brought back to their essence. The rose becomes a flattened and geometrized motif to the extreme. Art Deco seeks to tame nature by bending it to the aesthetic of the time. It is the proof of the dominance of the modern Man. It subdues nature thanks to intellectual and technological progress.



Épreuve en bronze

Bronze statue of "Gulls on Waves" by Enrique Molins

Artists also represent the modern speed and movement. The automobile appears in the streets of Paris, the liners allow to cross the oceans more and more quickly, and we dream of aviation. The panther becomes an elegant evocation of the fluidity and the impulse of the period. In our collection, you can find a bronze statue of "Two seagulls on a wave" by Enrique Molins, which shows this desire to use the animal kingdom to evoke speed and technological projects. The rapid descent of the birds into the ocean is an allusion to the aerobatic plane shows that fascinate the public.


 Sculpture en albâtre La Samaritaine

Art deco Alabaster Sculpture "La Samaritaine"

Sculpture Art déco par Kunstanstalt WMF Geislingen, Allemagne

Art Déco Sculpture by Kunstanstalt WMF Geislinger, Germany

Women also take more important place. It is the beginning of the emancipation represented by the Garçonne. Her slim and slender silhouette comes from fashion designers such as Gabrielle Chanel and Paul Poiret. In Art, the woman is found in her contemporary outfits, long and elegant. She can be seen in Tamara de Lempicka's paintings or in sculptures as a dancing figure accompanied by veils that she spins around her. She also takes the place antique goddess with the same stylized canons of beauty. The figure of the Samaritan woman is particularly highlighted, many restaurants bear this name.


Finally, there is a certain fascination for ancient civilizations fed by the many archaeological discoveries in Mesopotamia, Mesoamerica and especially Egypt. The discovery of the Tomb of Tutankhamen by Howard Carter in 1922 triggered an outbreak of Egyptian-style motifs in Art Deco productions. Mostly generic themes such as lotuses, scarabs and hieroglyphs were used.

Materials of the modern world


Buffet en palissandre, acajou et galuchat d'époque Art déco

Art Deco Rosewood, Mahogany and galuchat cabinet

The colonial exhibition in Paris in 1931 helped to rediscover African arts. Art Deco retained the abstract motifs and dark, black or brown color schemes. But, above all, a certain taste for exotic woods such as Macassar ebony or rosewood that come from far away. They are considered for their own aesthetic quality, the material becoming an ornament in itself. This justifies the use of numerous veneers and inlays, ivories, mother of pearl, mirrors or shagreen, fish leather. It is a produsion of luxury that does not want to make any compromise.


Lustre Art Déco en métal nickelé et cuivre

Art Deco chandelier in mixed metals with a frozen fountain decor

Lighting is given a greater importance to magnify the spaces and to signify progress. Electricity is found everywhere from the great lounges and restaurants to the comfort of your own room with the development of numerous table lamps juxtaposing chrome and wood. Technical progress is signified with new techniques. There is a particular fascination for the work of glass in the early 1920s. It reflects the modern, optimistic and forward-looking taste. In the chandeliers, glass captures the movement of a frozen fountain as an echo of the dynamism of the modern world.


Applique en laiton doré d'époque Art Déco

Art Deco Gilded brass sconce

Lampe de bureau et encrier Art Déco

Art Deco desk lamp in Makassar ebony

Around the 1930s, the United States took over and the style evolved towards more simplicity, without any ornamentation. This allowed it to be adapted to the growing mass production. Art Deco became affordable to meet the needs of the Great Depression. This allowed for large-scale distribution that brought the aesthetics into all homes, even modest ones. To satisfy the desire of consumers, materials still unknown to the public such as plastic or aluminum were added. Art Deco characterized modern America in its celebration of consumerism and individualism. The climax of the aesthetic is reached during the World's Fair in New York in 1939.



After the Second World War, Art Deco declined. It was widely criticized by a parallel movement, the modernism. Although it originated with the same 1925 exhibition, it evolved differently. Led by Le Corbusier, modernist designers found that the display of luxury was no longer in great taste. The post-war era is a period of austerity marked by rationalism and functionalism. Ornament is not necessary and "must be considered suspect" says the modernist critic Herbert Read. This art historian even said that Art Deco should be removed from the History of Art.


Fortunately, the antique dealers of the 1960s did not agree. Mocked by the cultural institutions, it is the professionals of the art business which safeguarded the Art Deco furniture considered as old-fashioned. A work that paid off because in 1966 the first retrospective took place at the Union Centrale des Art Décoratifs, now the Paris Museum of Decorative Arts, under the name "Style 1925". It was the beginning of a great recognition. The term Art Deco entered the common vocabulary in the 1970s. The taste for this atmosphere accelerated in the 1980s until it reached the general public with the release of the film The Great Gatsby in which Leonardo DiCaprio plays in 2013.


The Art Deco has therefore beautiful days ahead of it, in the decorating chains that produce copies, but especially for the originals that retain in them the trace of the excitement of the Roaring Twenties.