Art Deco – the term conjures up jewels by Van Cleef & Arpels, glassware by Lalique, furniture by Ruhlmann – is best exemplified in the work shown at the exhibition that gave the style its name: the Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes, held in Paris in 1925. The exquisite craftsmanship and artistry of the objects displayed spoke to a sophisticated modernity, yet were rooted in past traditions.
Although it quickly spread to other countries, Art Deco found its most coherent expression in France, where a rich cultural heritage was embraced as the impetus for creating something new. The style drew on inspirations as diverse as fashion, avant-garde trends in the fine arts – such as Cubism and Fauvism – and a taste for the exotic, all of which converged in these exceptionally luxurious and innovative objects. While the contemporary practice of Art Deco ended with the Second World War, interest in it has not only endured to the present day but has also grown steadily.
Examples include Süe et Mare’s furniture from the 1925 Exposition; Dufy’s Cubist-inspired textiles; Dunand’s lacquered bedroom suite; Dupas’s monumental glass wall panels from the SS Normandie; and Fouquet’s spectacular dress ornament in the shape of a Chinese mask.
Jared Goss’s engaging text comprises a discussion of each object together with a biography of the designer who created it, and is enlivened by generous quotations from contemporary writings. The extensive introduction provides historical context and explores the origins and aesthetic of Art Deco.
Accompanying the text are sumptuous, atmospheric photographs of the objects themselves, making this not only one of the rare books on French Art Deco in English, but also an objet d’art in its own right.
Jared Goss is an independent scholar and former associate curator in the Department of Modern and Contemporary Art at The Metropolitan Museum of Art.