Art Deco (), or Deco, is a style of visual arts, architecture and design that first appeared in France just before World War I. It became popular in the 1920s and 1930s, and influenced the design of buildings, furniture, jewellery, fashion, cars, movie theatres, trains, ocean liners, and everyday objects such as radios and vacuum cleaners. It took its name, short for Arts Décoratifs, from the Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes (International Exhibition of Modern Decorative and Industrial Arts) held in Paris in 1925. It combined modernist styles with fine craftsmanship and rich materials. During its heyday, Art Deco represented luxury, glamour, exuberance, and faith in social and technological progress.
Art Deco took its name, short for Arts Décoratifs, from the Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes held in Paris in 1925, though the diverse styles that characterize Art Deco had already appeared in Paris and Brussels before World War I.
The term arts décoratifs was first used in France in 1858; published in the Bulletin de la Société française de photographie.
In 1868, Le Figaro newspaper used the term art décoratifs with respect to objects for stage scenery created for the Théâtre de l’Opéra.
In 1875, furniture designers, textile, jewelry and glass designers and other craftsmen were officially given the status of artists by the French government. In response to this, the École royale gratuite de dessin (Royal Free School of Design) originally founded in 1766 under King Louis XVI to train artists and artisans in crafts relating to the fine arts, was renamed the National School of Decorative Arts (l’École nationale des arts décoratifs). It took its present name of ENSAD (École nationale supérieure des arts décoratifs) in 1927.
During the 1925 Exposition the architect Le Corbusier wrote a series of articles about the exhibition for his magazine L’Esprit Nouveau under the title, “1925 Expo: Arts Déco” which were combined into a book, “L’art décoratif d’aujourd’hui” (Decorative Art Today). The book was a spirited attack on the excesses of the colorful and lavish objects at the Exposition; and on the idea that practical objects such as furniture should have any decoration at all; his conclusion was that “Modern decoration has no decoration”.
The shorthand title “Arts Deco” that Le Corbusier used in the articles and book was adapted in 1966 for title of the first modern exhibit on the subject, called Les Années 25 : Art déco, Bauhaus, Stijl, Esprit nouveau, which covered the variety of major styles in the 1920s and 1930s. The term Art déco was then used in a 1966 newspaper article by Hillary Gelson in the Times (London, 12 November), describing the different styles at the exhibit.
Art Deco gained currency as a broadly applied stylistic label in 1968 when historian Bevis Hillier published the first major academic book on the style: Art Deco of the 20s and 30s. Hillier noted that the term was already being used by art dealers and cites The Times (2 November 1966) and an essay named “Les Arts Déco” in Elle magazine (November 1967) as examples of prior usage. In 1971, Hillier organized an exhibition at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, which he details in his book about it, The World of Art Deco.
Art Deco was a pastiche of many different styles, sometimes contradictory, united by a desire to be modern. From its outset, Art Deco was influenced by the bold geometric forms of Cubism; the bright colors of Fauvism and of the Ballets Russes; and the updated craftsmanship of the furniture of the eras of Louis Philippe and Louis XVI; by the exotic styles of China and Japan, India, Persia, ancient Egypt and Maya art. It featured rare and expensive materials such as ebony and ivory and exquisite craftsmanship. The Chrysler Building and other skyscrapers of New York were the most visible monuments of the new style. In the 1930s, after the Great Depression, the style became more subdued. New materials arrived, including chrome plating, stainless steel and plastic. A more sleek form of the style, called Streamline Moderne, appeared in the 1930s; it featured curving forms and smooth, polished surfaces. Art Deco became one of the first truly international architectural styles, with examples found in European cities, the United States, Russia, Latin America, Africa and Asia. The style came to an end with the beginning of World War II. Deco was replaced as the dominant global style by the strictly functional and unadorned styles of modernism and the International Style of architecture
The John W. McCormack Post Office and U.s. Courthouse. Built in 1931-1933. Architect: Cram & Ferguson, consists of three towers rising above a five story base. It is 16 stories tall. The exterior is an excellent example of Art Deco institutional design.