The Arts Decoratifs, i.e. The Decorative Arts, was the catch phrase used during the 1920s and ’30s to refer to the applied art and design movements that were then flowering in Europe, primarily in Paris, France. From Arts Decoratifs, the term Art Deco was coined, and popularized versions of Art Deco from the 50s and 60s can be traced back to designs from the early, original “Art Deco” of the 20s and 30s. In fact the modern artists that were part of the original Arts Decoratifs; Emile-Jacques Ruhlmann, Pierre Legrain, Theo Van Doesburg and many, many more, were exploring and even helping create many of the varied modern movements of the time. Delving into the Arts Decoratifs means experiencing Cubism, De Stijll, the Bauhaus, cross-cultural art – a veritable melting pot of the Avante Garde.
Unlike their fine art counterparts, these artists designed and redefined the things that people came into contact with in their daily lives – architecture, interiors, furniture, household objects, decorative sculpture and paintings, books, illustrations, textiles, magazines and advertisements. Rather than looking inward to the psyche of the artist, with applied art and design, you spend more time looking outward at the artists interpretation of the functional use of the piece and its aesthetics, contemplating a chair design or other object abstracted in this or that way in the context of its external environment. Its as if we are conducting a grand exploration of how art and daily life intersect and to what end. So is this art? Yes, just the design kind. As with all visual art the inherent beauty is in the proportion, shape, color, texture and form. These visual abstractions have references and imprint on ones attitudes. And as with all trends towards modernism they do away with the sentimentality of metaphors in order to evoke an emotional response. This remarkable movement towards a new awareness in art is often seen in parallel with new social awareness as well. This historical context is very much a part of the Arts Decoratifs.
In recent times, for a variety of reasons, this large body of modern design masterpieces has gone under-appreciated (until now). Not the least of which has been the lack of accessibility. In fact much of these works have been either hidden in private collections or had been destroyed in WWII. Thankfully, rare sets of period portfolios exist documenting this work. In these portfolios are period photographs of objects exhibiting the strongest sense of composition and lighting along with hand colored reproductions of two dimensional works. It is from these original documents, as well as other period sources, that we curate this collection to reveal and reinterpret this magical era. By reintroducing these images as large format wall art, we are acknowledging the historical and artistic significance of these images. You have the opportunity to hang an image of a fabric that looks like an abstract painting. Or a photograph of a tea service that appears much like a still life. Or a photograph of a sculpture or a lamp. The aesthetics of these peices inherently command this respect since the composition and forms are as poetic and pleasure giving as the best modern art. And it’s a practical way to get back to the true significance of Art Deco and a way for us to incorporate these important works of art into our lives.