Saturday, March 24, 2012

Art Nouveau and Art Deco styles

The graceful sensuality of Art Nouveau lasted a mere 20 years between the 1890s and the outbreak of the First World War. After the guns fell silent in 1918, the seeds of modernism, sown before the war, able to take root and flourish. The style of the 1920s and 30s became known as Art Deco, an abbrevation of L'Exposition des Arts Decoratifs et Industriels Modernes (The Paris Exhibition), which took place in 1925. Both were reactionary movements, Art Nouveau against the staid traditionalism and revivalism of the late 19th century and Art Deco against the curvaceous excesses of Art Nouveau. The former was probably the last great decadent style and the latter the first trumpet call of the truly modern age.

Whereas Art Nouveau took organic forms and used the writhing, sinuous shapes of plants, flowers, insects and birds as its inspiration, the straight, stepped, soaring lines and geometric shapes of Art Deco mirrored the exciting post-war developments in technology and mass production techniques. Art Nouveau designers worked with wood, glass and clay, as had their predecessors, but their counterparts of the 1920s and 30s took advantage of the new materials such as tubular steel, plate glass, concrete, plywood and even plastics.

Both styles found a following during the 1960s and both were initially derided by serious collectors of antiques, until first Art Nouveau and then Art Deco were given credibility when the top auction houses in London, Paris and New York began to devote sales to them. The market developed rapidly during 1970s and is now an established area of collecting.

Ferdinand Preiss bronze figurine

Although prices can be very high, both styles are still accesible to those on a more restricted budget. An Art Deco bronze and ivory figure by Ferdinand Preiss may be worth 3,000 - 4,000 GBP, but a small bronze figure of a dancer by Lorenzl (another good name) can still be bought for 300 - 400 GBP.  

Archibald Knox box

Cymric silver (the silver designed by Archibald Knox for the British firm, Liberty) has spiralled in price over the last ten years, yet the Tudric (Liberty's pewter range) wares, also designed by Knox, are still affordable. You might have to pay 3,000 GBP for a Cymric clock, as opposite to 600 - 800 GBP for some Tudric examples.

Cymric silver cutlery

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