ART DECO: 1910-1939

Sonali Sitaram

ART 335

Book Review


Art Deco:1910-1939. By Charlotte Benton, Tim Benton, and Ghislaine Wood. (Victoria & Albert Museum, 2015).


The term ‘Art Deco’ covers a style applied to design, architecture, and visual arts during the 1920s and 1930s. This new style originally appeared in France before the first World War. Art pieces and objects created during this movement were considered luxurious, glamorous, and encouraged technological processes. ‘Art Deco: 1910- 1939’ combines images from this time period and works influenced by this, as well as essays and critiques from this period. It was created and edited by Charlotte Benton, Tim Benton, and Ghislaine Wood. All three authors are considered art historians, whose expertise range from teaching to curating Art Deco exhibitions. The text is broken up into sections, discussing topics from the 1925 Paris Exhibition to Iconography, and finishing with how the Art Deco movement influenced many artists and pieces not only in Europe, but around the world.

Unlike traditional textbooks, this book refrains from spitting information in one tone, as many points of view and different historians give their take on this style. Though each passage and even section has its unique information given, it may not be something to smoothly read from one section to another. Each individual essay gives the reader a taste of the Art Deco period. As you begin to wrap your head around one idea or element, it will jump to the next topic and begin a new idea or segment. Architecture still around today is heavily influenced by this period, such as the Chrysler Building and Grand Rex movie theater in Paris. Gustav Klimt was a renown artist during this period. His painting subjects, as well as others during this period centered around woman. They also portrayed women in a less conservative manner. These works began to stray from linear pattern, and focused on curvatures, making the curves the subject of the composition- also shown by using the woman’s hair to map the structure of the piece. Klimt’s ‘Golden Age’ pieces were an innovation in themselves, using gold ink to make up majority of the canvas. One could open to a page comparing the influence on architecture by a historian, and on the very next page dive into an in depth discussion of Klimt’s Golden Age paintings by an art critic. Because the topics cover overall mediums and areas that Art Deco influenced are scattered, it may be confusing to follow along for someone who is searching just to get an overview of this period.

Art Deco: 1910-1939 also gives its information in chronological order. From when it first came about in France, to its influence it left behind, we see the evolution of thoughts and ideas still used in architecture and artworks today. As discussed earlier, women during this period become some of the primary subjects of these works, and even in magazines today it is not uncommon for woman to be portrayed in a less conservative manner. Now, we mainly see Art Deco’s style in furniture, apart from fine artwork and architecture. Its influence is commonly seen on household items, such as glamorous mirrors with gold borders, or chairs and tables designed to stand with geometric patterns. Articles are referenced amongst each other, relating to back  to previous topics as the book progresses. For example; viewing gold work now, geometric patterns and the use of feminine pattern. Comparing different throughout history and being able to visually see what is being covered allows the viewer to join and connect to discussions.

Overall, this book is enjoyable to read, but the name is misleading. Many students don’t enjoy art history textbooks because it’s dense information doesn’t hold their attention. Pictures in this book are large and clear, which allows the reader to have a stronger connection to the information given. Clarity and size of pictures make it a more interesting read, as the reader is able to visualize and connect to the passages. The various essays introduce a unique way to discuss information, and communicate with the reader. However, for those looking for a quick overview of this period, this is probably not the best book. The name itself Art Deco: 1910-1939 is misleading because of its broad name. The title gives the assumption that it covers generally everything related in this time period. The Benton’s and Wood go in depth to discuss each individual piece or medium. Unless one is interested in external opinions and critiques of this period, they may not get the information they are looking for. From reading about Klimt to discussing the influence on everyday items that followed, this book reviews how Art Deco touched many mediums and spread throughout time through various points of view.



Henna Candles


Henna comes from a natural leaf that is made into a paste. It’s applied to hands, arms, and feet of the bride. This application has its own separate ceremony during traditional Indian weddings. Over the years, henna design and uses are more modernized. The paste is now applied to everyday household items, such as candles, vases, lamp shades, furniture… etc. Now instead of piping the cone with the natural paste, acrylic paint is piped in, and can be used on these items as well as paintings. Design wise, instead of creating patterns and various shadings using one color, multiple colors and hues are using. These are also used to replace a solid shades of color in modern day designs. The need for this technique and design has become a large business and is spreading to other cultures. Traditional uses for items are now used for more decorative purposes.

The objects of this image sit on a flat surface, which is brown and sleek with textured streaks that run across it while the subjects  reflect across the top. The design is primarily based off of square shaped structures that are placed in the foreground and background. The object is white and slightly transparent and becomes richer and darker in color as you look towards the middle. There is a string that extends out from the center of the structure. Floral designs are randomly placed on the cubic form and the patterns are outlined in black and shaded in with gold lines. Yellow and red dots are placed in circles towards the center of the flower surrounding a diamond gem is in the very center.

These are amongst the common designs and objects found at weddings and parties used for decoration purposes. They are often made with paint however, because the paste with chip off the sleek surface of the candle. Various candle types are typically placed around an idol, or on a large round plate, that is also decorated with these designs. This enhances the natural elegance that candles bring to an environment. Not only can they attract our sense of smell if scented, but also are visually appealing.

El Lissitzky

El Lissitzky, a Russian  artist, designer, photographer, typographer and architect was important during the Russian Suprematism. He designed many works alongside his mentor, Kazimir Malevich (founded this arts movement). These works displayed propaganda and displays for exhibition. His works changed the way one experiments with materials and production techniques, which later influenced the Bauhaus  and carries on to 20th century graphic design. He innovated change in producing photomontage, book production, and typographic exhibitions. El Lissitzky believed that artwork and artists could be used to change surrounding environments. Being of Jewish origin, he created books in order to help spread and share his culture through Russia. During this time, Russia was going through many changes.

His artworks, like many during this time were focused on basic geometric forms in limited colors and abstraction. Centered and based around right angles and grids. Text were often also placed at an angle. This different from the classic art usually based on what we see (Prouns: establishment for New Art). El Lissitzky’s piece “Beat the White with the Red Wedge” was one his most popular posters. In the image, we see shapes of primarily white, black and some grey. These simple composition is broken by a large red triangle placed in the center of the frame. This was said to symbolize the environment in this time period- the bolsheviks fighting their opponents during Russian Civil War.


This helping begin the Constructivist movement. His works similar to these helped spread that art is not only what you see, but also can spread an idea or phase through simple shapes and forms.

Art Nouveau

Art Nouveau is a style of art that came about from 1890 to 1910. This movement had an affect on art, architecture, and applied art, more specifically the decorative arts. The artists involved during this time were inspired by nature. Lines became less linear, as patterns and curves became more common as they started to define pieces. One artist, Gustav Klimt, and his ‘Golden Phase’, received much positive criticism and was a financial success. Most paintings contained Gold, like he used in his other works “Pallas Athene” and “Judith I”.


Abanindranath Tagore was one of the first artists of Indian origin to gain worldwide recognition. He was the creator of Indian society of Oriental Art, which later lead to the creation and founding of Bengal school of Art. Tagore worked towards modernizing Mughal and Rajasthani styles of art, to contrast the western influence being spread at the time. Asoka’s Queen in 1910 was a popular painting during this time. This was a more modern Indian painting, and one of the few not centered around the traditional Hindu deities. This was done with fine lines, and paid attention to careful detail in the background and surrounding environment.dc8cf9e82c5ab9fa224868cb3f74473d

In comparison to Art Nouveau during this time, many works were are centered around women. In France, works primary subjects were focused around women. Also in Indian artworks, many works are focused around women. Also similar are the fine lines and curves used  in creating the composition. Details and curves that make up the surrounding environments also help to make up the composition.