90 Years Since Art Deco and its Influence on Antique Fireplaces

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By the First World War, Art Nouveau had fallen out of favour to make way for a more modern approach.  Art Nouveau was considered too opulent, and the handicrafts movement that had underscored it was thrown over for a more mechanised and industrial approach.  As such, Art Deco was not the reserve of the wealthy like previous decorative art movements had been, but instead was a design style that could grace the homes of those of any financial means, due to its relative ease and the cost effectiveness of its production.  Naturally this did not apply to all Art Deco wares, as many purveyors of luxury goods still chose to take a more hand crafted approach, using more expensive materials such as marble for fireplaces, and precious stones and metals for jewellery, rather than the readily available ‘cheaper’ materials such as plastic resins like Bakelite.

While Art Deco had been in development for a number of years beforehand, it is generally cited to have been cemented in 1925 when the Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes was held in Paris to showcase advances in the decorative arts.  It brought together designers from all over the world and attracted over 16 million visitors.  It is widely considered the high point of Art Deco.  However, while the Art Deco movement can be seen as coming from French beginnings, much of the geometric design that fed it was inspired by British designers of the Art Nouveau period such as Charles Rennie Mackintosh, who’s designs already had a far more ‘modern’, geometric feel.

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In the aftermath of the First World War, the industrialisation that had been kicked against in the pre-war years was, by necessity, in full swing and embraced by designers.  Art Deco was simultaneously modern and traditional.  It embraced all the new inventions of an industrial age, while drawing inspiration from the more traditional pre-Modern art.  Many of Art Deco’s design influences came from the ancient past with Egyptian influenced designs after the unearthing of Tutankhamun’s tomb and ancient Greek and Roman influences as archaeology garnered more public interest.

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Art Deco is visually recognisable by its geometric arrangement.  All elements of the design would be punctuated by angular shapes in bold materials and colours, often with a strong contrast, such as black and silver, or highly polished woods or marbles with a black lacquered visual contrast.  This marble chimneypiece from our own collection perfectly articulates the geometric angularity that has become so synonymous with Art Deco. Find out more information on this fireplace

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The fire surround can also be accentuated by using an accompanying reclaimed fire basket such as the ones below. The mix of geometric patterns and highly polished cast iron in these fire grates perfectly exemplifies the design style.

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Art Deco was the first truly ‘modern’ movement, reacting to a new age of industrialisation and the availability of cheaper design materials such as plastics.  It maintained a sense of luxury while also offering affordable options which could grace every home. Much of today’s capitalism and mass availability of consumer goods is possible because of the Art Deco movement and it’s influence is still seen today 90 years on.

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