ART DECO WAS an international style that flourished in the years between the two world wars. The style dominated architecture and interior decor, the design of fabrics, porcelain, jewelry, glassware, even haute couture. For the past decade, Art Deco has been enjoying an impressive retro-popularity.
Like so much else in the history of art, decor and fashion, the style came to light in France. In 1925, the Exposition des Arts Decoratifs et Industriels Modernes, originally planned for 1914, opened in Paris. Coming at a time when art nouveau dominated ideas of decoration and design, the style, with its streamlined and geometric forms, looked to the future. Yet it was firmly based in the early 20th Century. Much of its furniture and decorative arts derived from the designs of the Wiener Werkstate, founded in 1903, its colors from the Ballets Russes of 1909, and its line and architecture from Cubism and the geometrics of the Bauhaus of 1919. Art Deco may have emerged during the giddy years of the 1920s, but it was a serious attempt (and the last made in Europe) to develop a coherent and lasting decorative style that would apply in all areas of design.
Glassware is one area of the decorative arts of the period that has never lost its popularity. And there is more to its appeal than simple nostalgia, for Art Deco glass has a massive opulence and a sophisticated thrust that are fashionable today. The finest French work is the pate de verre and other fired products by Decorchemont, and the extremely rare blown and sculpted glass by Maurice Marinot. More popular, and more readily available, is molded glass (vases, glasses, lamps) by Rene Lalique and the Daum Freres of Nancy. Lalique's work, in particular, has a strong Art Deco signature--from the great glass fountain he created for the 1925 exposition in Paris and commissions for the ocean liner Normandie to the many perfume bottles he made for firms such as Coty and the striking hood ornaments he produced for luxury automobiles. Art Deco glasswork, of course, was not a French monopoly. There were the Leerdam Co. in Holland, among others, Orrefors in Sweden, Steuben and Corning in the United States and Stuart & Sons and Thomas Webb in England.
Paradoxically, the Art Deco style seen in the work of masters such as Lalique in glass, Clarice Cliff in ceramics and Ruhlmann in furniture is at once modern and comfortably old-fashioned--old-fashioned in the sense that the materials used are luxurious and the handcraftsmanship exquisite. The charm lies in a combination of the futuristic and the luxurious. It is rather like traveling under the ocean in the Nautilus with Captain Nemo.
Find Art Deco glassware at Harvey's Antiques and HaRry in Los Angeles; Del Mano in Brentwood; Beaded Bird in Venice; Sherman Oaks Antique Mall in Sherman Oaks; Jay's Antiques and Pasadena Antique Center in Pasadena; Antique Trading Co. in Valencia; Art Deco Auctions in Tarzana; Antique Collection in Ojai; Snooty Fox in Ventura; Antiques by Sherry in Orange, and Antique Co. in Solana Beach.