On a recent trip to New York City, I took quite a few pictures of Art Deco buildings and grill work. I really only knew a bit about it that I’d picked up in a passing way but I did know that I really liked it. I decided I needed to know a lot more about it before my next trip to NYC (there is much more I’d like to see and do there) and so I ordered a book from Amazon called Art Deco by Victoria Charles & Klaus H. Carl. There is a lot of excellent information in it as well as terrific colour pictures of a wide variety of examples of this great early 20th century artwork including a colour woodcut of a poster from the Paris – 1925 art exposition.
The book is divided into 4 sections: an introduction to the art form, the materials and technology used, and the extent to which it expressed a vision of life itself — the jazz age and a new prosperity rising like a phoenix out of the ashes of WWI — a section about the architecture, painted and sculpted decor, the third about furniture and the last section about jewellery.
The architectural photos are stunning and I must say this section was my favourite although there were really interesting pieces of jewellery and furniture. This chapter includes architecture from all over the world such as the Eastern Columbia Building (Los Angeles, 1930), La Maitrise pavilion for Galeries Lafayette at the Paris Exhibition (1925), the auditorium of the Paramount Theater (1931) in Aurora, Illinois, the Tuschinski Cinema foyer (1918 – 1921) in Amsterdam, and the Maharaja’s bathroom (early 1930s), Umaid Bhawan Palace, Jodhpur. Close-ups of detail on the outside of the Chrysler Bldg. from different angles are remarkable. The architecture and embellishments in the entrance hall of Palacio de Bellas Artes, Mexico City (1928) with its open center core makes it one of my favourites.
There is a picture from the Chrysler Building (which I only saw from a distance) of the elevator doors which are quite amazing. They depict the graceful, symmetrical fan-like lines of the Egyptian papyrus plant, a theme emphasized by the pyramid light above, the triangular shape of the entrance lobby, and the Red Moraccan marble walls surrounding them.
In the furniture section, the sculpted folding screen called Oasis by Edgar Brandt (c.1924) is as beautiful as it is intricate and there is an unusual bed made of lacquered wood by Jean Dunand (1930s). Many desk clocks and wall lights are glittery and imaginative. I especially like the Jean Goulden clock (1928) in silver-plated bronze and enamel and the Cartier clock (Entrance to an Egyptian Temple — 1927) made of gold, rubies, mother-of-pearl, coral, enamel, lapis lazuli, cornelian and emeralds. It is soooo beautiful!
The jewellery section is the smallest with the fewest pictures but a lot of interesting information. Ladies’ cigarette cases and vanity cases combined enamel, gold, and precious gems to create elegant accessories. Costume jewellery was used by designers and milliners to enhance dresses and hats in the form of hooks, buckles, and pins in unusual ways. The bracelets and “giraffe collars” caught my fancy.
I still need to do more research because I’m not sure what the difference is between Art Deco and Art Nouveau (or what giraffe collars are) but this book was a good starter for me to learn a lot and there is another book in this series about the latter topic. I like the hard cover coffee table book but these are also available in an ebook and you can peek inside to view some of the pictures for yourself before you decide if you want to order it.
I now realize there are many places I should have planned to have time to see when I was in NYC. Like the Chrysler Bldg (its entrance hall is absolutely amazing — I love the art deco elevator), Grand Central Station, and the Rockefeller Center, to name a few. Here are some of my photos of art deco NYC.