The twentieth century ushered in an eclectic, luxurious and modern style of design and decoration the world would define at the Paris 1925 exhibition as Art Deco. The material world was now an amalgamation of new technologies and processes and drew from many worldwide influences. However, the greatest influence of the movement was the new visual language, color and iconography of the avant-garde art world: Cubism, Fauvism, Futurism, De Stijl, Bauhaus and Constructivism to name a few. As Helen Appleton Red described the Exposition Internationale des Arts Decoratifs et Industriels Modernes, "The Exposition marks the coming of age of a new decor...as inevitable a manifestation of the forces of evolution as modern art...passing through the Porte d'Honneur one comes...upon a cubist dream city...its cubist shapes and futurist colors...looking like nothing so much as a Picasso abstraction..."
The impact of the avant-garde on all aspect of the decorative arts may seem surprising to some. Before the 1930s knowledge of this new art was exclusively through collectors, dealers, curators and various enthusiasts; outsiders viewed the work as alien or even threatening to established societal traditions and values. Furthermore, many avant-garde artists insisted on a work of art's autonomy and rejected any decorative intentions. In the 1912 publication Du Cubisme, Albert Gleize and Jean Metzinger claimed, "Many consider that decorative preoccupations must govern the spirit of the new painters. Undoubtedly they are ignorant of the most obvious signs that make decorative work the antithesis of the picture." To them the true function of art was to engage the mind and emotions independently from its context, while the applied arts were defined by the need to harmonize with the context. A work of art that was "decorative" couldn't exist.
But by the late twenties and thirties, artists and... [continues]
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