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Definition: Art deco from Brewer's Dictionary of Modern Phrase and Fable

A decorative style in painting, glass, pottery, silverware, furniture, architecture and the like, at its height in the 1930s. It is distinguished by bold colours, geometrical shapes, stylized natural forms and symmetrical designs. The name comes from French art décoratif, 'decorative art', itself from the Exposition internationale des arts décoratifs et industriels modernes held in Paris in 1925 as the first major international exhibition of decorative art since the First World War.

Summary Article: art deco
From The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas and Weather Guide

Style in the decorative arts that influenced design and architecture, and is particularly associated with mass-produced domestic goods. It emerged in Europe in the 1920s and continued through the 1930s, achieving greatest popularity in the USA and France. Art deco pulls together aspects of abstraction and cubism to create a deliberately modern style, which was originally called ‘Jazz Modern’. Its features include angular, geometrical patterns and bright colours, and the use of materials such as enamel, chrome, glass, and plastic. The graphic designer Erté became fashionable for his art deco work.

Art deco pieces serve to embody the productivity and efficiency of the machine age, when mass-production popularized designs and made them accessible to many, in particular the growing middle-classes. During the art deco period product designers became involved in the process of production for the first time, as manufacturers sought to tempt customers with goods that looked up-to-date and fashionable.

In Britain art deco style is found in the work of pottery designers Susie Cooper and Clarice Cliff, the industrial designer Douglas Scott, and the architect Giles Gilbert Scott, who designed Battersea Power Station (1932–34) with an art deco interior.

In France and the USA art deco was used extensively in urban architecture such as the Chrysler Building, New York City; in interior design such as in Radio City Music Hall, New York City; and in notable designs for streamlined trains, cars, and aeroplanes. It also influenced industrial design in products such as chinaware, radios, textiles, home furnishings, jewellery, and printed matter. Its use in film sets and costumes helped promote a fascination with modernism that culminated in the 1939–40 World's Fair in New York City.


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