What is Art Deco?
ART DECO = The common and popular modern art style of the 1920's & 30's. (Or the time period between the two World Wars)
The above definition is a "quick and short" one that we can use as a foundation upon which to build a richer understanding.
But let's start by looking a little more at this definition.
A. "Common & Popular" We specifically chose those words, for during this time period there were other art styles that were considered new, however, they were not used as commonly as Art Deco. The Art Deco style was frequently used in everything from advertising to product design and architecture. From toasters to tin cans, skyscrapers and sculptures, furniture and fabric patterns, magazine covers and mailboxes, candy boxes to book covers. This ubiquitous modern style of art, also rapidly spread and flourished around the world.
B. "Modern" During the 1920's & 30's you would find this design style referenced as "Modern" Magazines would have articles showing images of (what we now call Art Deco) rooms and furniture with titles like "What is This Style Called Modern?" The Modern style evolved and changed over the decades, "50s Mod as an example" such that by the time of the 1960's, people looking back at that early Modern style noticed it had a unique look, a unique "Design Alphabet" if you will, and coined the term "Art Deco". This term was referenced from the highly influential 1925 "Exposition Internationale des Arts Decoratifs" in Paris which brought to the fore, and promoted to the world, this Modern style.
C. "1920's & 30"s During these two decades, this new "Modern" style exploded in popularity and use. It's unique set of design elements , or design alphabet, were used over and over to create a unique and identifiable "design language". BUT, it must be noted that one can find the occasional, rare, and often very valuable, objects before the 1920's that could be recognized as Art Deco. During the 40's people still used elements of the Art Deco style but by then people were looking for something, even more fresh and new. The Art Deco style was evolving into 50s Mod. And of course we can use the Art Deco "design alphabet" today to create new works of Art Deco. During the 1970's & especially the 80's there was a nostalgic rebirth of interest in the Art Deco style. And today, as those decades have receded further into the past, many of the well designed Art Deco items of this era have become quite collectable and valuable.