Aesthetics Wiki

Art Deco is a twentieth century aesthetic that emerged after World War 1. It flourished in the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s, before becoming less popular after World War Two ended. There have been multiple revivals, such as in the 1980s. Art Deco's influence permeated everything from architecture to jewelry. The style uses geometric forms, clean lines, and is often angular or streamlined. Colors are usually bold and chosen for contrast. Patterns are bold, symmetrical, and geometric. Popular materials were Bakelite, plastics, chrome, steel, aluminum, as well as stained glass, lacquer, and inlays.  The Art Deco aesthetic is also very important to Dieselpunk and Decopunk, as without Art Deco, neither would really exist.


Art Deco as an aesthetic was a direct reaction to the previous standard: Art Nouveau (which was popular between 1895 and 1900), and eventually overtook the Beaux-Arts and neoclassical stylings that were popular in European and American architecture at the time. Art Deco actually took inspiration from various other previous aesthetics of the time: pre-modern art that could be seen in the Louvre at the time (among other art museums, Russian Constructivism, Italian Futurism, Orphism, Functionalism, Fauvism, Modernism, the recent unearthing of ancient Egyptian artifacts, and so much more). Art Deco itself eventually evolved into the style known as Streamline Moderne.


Shockingly, many examples of Art Deco are still standing to this very day, especially in New York City; buildings such as the Chrysler Building, the American Radiator Building, the General Electric Building, the Comcast Building, and the Empire State Building. Other examples of Art Deco architecture include the Lincoln Theater in Miami, Florida, the Palais de Chaillot in Paris, and the Robert Stanton Theater at King City High School in King City, California. One of the more popular elements in Art Deco architecture is Streamline Moderne, an international style of Art Deco architecture and design that emerged in the 1930s. It was inspired by aerodynamic design. Streamline architecture emphasized curving forms, long horizontal lines, and sometimes nautical elements.[1]

Streamline Moderne appeared most often in buildings related to transportation and movement, such as bus and train stations, airport terminals, roadside cafes, and port buildings. It had characteristics common with modern architecture, including a horizontal orientation, rounded corners, the use of glass brick walls or porthole windows, flat roofs, chrome-plated hardware, and horizontal grooves or lines in the walls. They were frequently white or in subdued pastel colors.[2]

Although Streamline Moderne houses are less common than streamline commercial buildings, residences do exist. The Lydecker House in Los Angeles, built by Howard Lydecker, is an example of Streamline Moderne design in residential architecture. In tract development, elements of the style were sometimes used as a variation in postwar row housing in San Francisco's Sunset District.

Streamline style can be contrasted with functionalism, which was a leading design style in Europe at the same time. One reason for the simple designs in functionalism was to lower the production costs of the items, making them affordable to the large European working class. Streamlining and functionalism represent two different schools in modernistic industrial design.


While Art Deco is primarily renowned as an architectual style, there was a definite painting style associated with the Art Deco aesthetic; the most noteworthy artists associated with it being Jean Dupas, Tamara de Lempicka, Reginald Marsh, Rockwell Kent, and Diego Rivera.  However, the Art Deco aesthetic tended to lend itself much better to sculptures, as many statues were built utilizing the Art Deco style, including the Prometheus in the Rockefeller Center and the world-famous Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janerio, Brazil.


Art Deco fashion followed a lot of the same rules laid out for its art and architecture, introducing lots of geometric shapes, long lines, and exaggerated accessories.  Art Deco fashion included lots of evening gowns, skirts, hats, and bias-cut dresses.  For women, the Art Deco period was the time of the "flapper"; a woman who bobbed their hair, loved jazz music, wore excessive make-up, drank, smoked, drove, had casual sex, and generally took a proverbial piss on social norms at the time.  The Flapper sub-aesthetic in Art Deco was forever immortalized by the legendary cartoon character, Betty Boop.