Art Deco – Behind the Scenes
15 artifacts in this set
Henry Dreyfuss is remembered for his telephone designs for A.T. & T. This clock, though, is a seminal object in his career. Created at roughly the same time as his early telephones, it marks his maturing as a designer in terms of simple, approachable form. It foreshadows his later design for the ubiquitous Honeywell round thermostat of 1953.
The 1920s and 1930s--an era known for luxury and modernity of Art Deco aesthetic--was also characterized by increasing openness and informality. Dinner and dancing, as well as cocktail parties, grew more popular than elaborate, seated, formal dinner parties. Clothing had a sleek, modern silhouette. The fashionable socialites shown on this elegant 1930s evening jacket capture the jazzy exuberance and fluidity of the era--at least for the wealthy.
Renowned industrial designer Walter Dorwin Teague's longstanding collaboration with Kodak yielded numerous modernized camera designs, including this Kodak Beau Brownie 2A camera. Teague pioneered the merging of art and industry during this period -- his collaboration with Kodak was just one of his many commercial partnerships. The Beau Brownie came in five color choices, but this green-aqua combination was only produced for three months.
Packard’s Twelves rank among the finest American luxury automobiles ever built. The teardrop headlights and pontoon fenders on this 1939 Victoria give the car an aerodynamic appearance, while the radiator’s beveled “shoulders” echo a Packard styling hallmark used since 1904. Vertical lines, common just ten years earlier, are gone as the grille and windshield lean back at a rakish angle.
From the images of stylized Art Deco skyscrapers to dirigibles and airplanes, this appliqued quilt celebrates 1930s modernity. This quilt was likely made for entry into Sears and Roebuck's quilt contest at the 1933 Century of Progress World's Fair in Chicago. This fair gave people a look at the wonders of modern, machine-age technology and design--inspiring the public with an enticing sense of the future.
Hungarian-born artist A. Raymond Katz, or Sandor as he often signed his work, captures the liveliness of the 1934 World's Fair in this streamlined poster. A portrait of iconic burlesque "fan dancer" Sally Rand points the viewer towards another highlight -- the architectural showpiece Sky Ride, which shuttled fair goers in rocket-shaped cars more than 200 feet above the ground.
The Trylon and Perisphere were iconic symbols of the 1939-1940 New York World's Fair. The architectural pairing represented the fair's utopian theme, "Building the World of Tomorrow." Many souvenirs from the exposition, like this aluminum pen holder and letter opener set, used the futuristic Trylon and Perisphere image.
The skyscraper, ship, airplane, train, and automobile -- these streamlined forms signified modernity for Americans during the inter-war years. The Art Deco movement, an artistic style prominent during this period, celebrated the technological advancements that modern transportation embodied. The Art Deco aesthetic was applied to all areas life; from skyscrapers to dinnerware, airplanes to Christmas cards.
Rene Lalique created some of the most striking automobile mascots or hood ornaments. Lalique's elegant, molded-glass models enhanced the front of any luxury vehicle. The mascots could also be lit from below making them all the more impressive. These decorative mascots became a symbol of the car owner's wealth, status, and good taste.
Lincoln’s Model Ks were available with either standard or “factory custom” bodies -- the latter designed for Lincoln by prominent custom coachbuilders. This Brunn factory custom features a roof that opens over the rear passenger seat in the manner of a cabriolet carriage. Headlights on all 1937 Ks were integrated into the front fenders for a smoother appearance.
The Sunbeam T9 toaster's curved form and smooth surface reflect the Streamline Moderne aesthetic, an aspect of Art Deco design that emerged during the 1930s. Often called the "World's Fair Toaster," it was produced the same year as the 1939 New York World's Fair and has incised decoration reflecting the modernistic Trylon and Perisphere structures that formed the fair's futuristic "Theme Center."
This brochure's Art Deco look projected an up-to-date image for the 1930 Hupmobile DeLuxe Eight. The Hupp Motor Car Corporation highlighted the vehicle's modern detailing -- interior lights, ashtrays, and instrument panel -- alongside traditional mechanical features. Visually, there was nothing stodgy about the 1930 Hupmobile or its sales literature.
Photographic cards like this one, with their glued-on labels, were a preliminary step taken by Dexter Press before producing postcards for small business owners to mail or hand out to customers. Built 1936 along Route 66 in Shamrock, Texas, this Streamlined Moderne-styled building included a Conoco service station, a cafe, and an intended retail area that became overflow cafe seating.
Though well-suited to the Art Deco vogue, the Airflow’s appearance is more scientific than aesthetic. Chrysler engineers shaped the car in a wind tunnel, determined to reduce drag and improve handling. But innovation often comes with a cost. Production difficulties and conservative customer tastes hampered sales. The Airflow, sold under both the Chrysler and DeSoto brands, was canceled in 1937.
The Pennsylvania Railroad’s GG1 electric locomotive debuted in 1935 to serve its newly-electrified New York-Washington mainline. Raymond Loewy, taking a cue from the automotive industry, restyled the prototype’s riveted body into a seamless welded shell. PRR built 138 additional units using Loewy’s design, and the graceful GG1s handled passenger and freight trains with equal ease for almost 50 years.