The house of the sun, Gambini (1929) by Silvio GambiniItalia Liberty
Art déco (name derived for extreme synthesis from the words Exposition internationale des arts décoratifs et industriels modernes, International Exhibition of modern decorative and industrial arts, held in Paris in 1925 and therefore also called 1925 style) was a phenomenon of taste that interested substantially the period between 1919 and 1930 in Europe, while in America, in particular in the USA, it lasted until 1940: it concerned the decorative arts, the visual arts, architecture and fashion. The 1925 Parisian Expo saw the triumph of special French refinement among the many foreign exhibitors in various product categories, from cabinet making to fashion accessories.
Paris remained the international center of good taste even in the critical years following the First World War.
But art déco was not born with the Exposition, which was, if anything, a sort of glowing review of a phenomenon in the phase of its late maturity, which arose in Paris itself around 1910 by Paul Poiret, a stylist with multiple interests, aimed at complete aesthetic reform of the modern existential environment.
Overseas, the U.S.A. adhered more slowly to the déco, in a certain sense picking up the baton towards the thirties, with the characteristic taste for an aerodynamic modeling of the so-called Streamlining Modern, of which the designers Raymond Loewy, Henry Dreyfuss and Walter Dorwin Teague.
A moment of taste
A taste, a fascination, a language that characterized Italian and European artistic production in the 1920s, with mainly American results after 1929. What for everyone corresponds to the definition of Art Déco was an eclectic, worldly, international lifestyle. The success of this moment of taste must be recognized in the search for luxury and a pleasantness of life, all the more intense as they are ephemeral, fielded by the European bourgeoisie after the dissolution, in the Great War, of the last nineteenth-century myths and the mimesis of industrial reality, with the logic of its production processes. Ten unbridled, "roaring" years of the great international bourgeoisie, while history drew the gloomy horizon of totalitarianisms between war, revolutions and inflation.
Building project for the Viserba club (1908) by Ulisse ManfrediItalia Liberty
Viserba - Circle of bathers (1927)Italia Liberty
Entrance to the city Garden (1929) by Silvio GambiniItalia Liberty
The relationship with Liberty
The relationship with Liberty, which precedes it chronologically, was first of continuity, then of overcoming, up to the opposition. The difference between the idealism of Art Nouveau and the rationalism of Déco appears substantial. The very idea of modernity, the industrial production of the artistic object, the concept of beauty in everyday life change radically: with the overcoming of the supple, serpentine and asymmetrical line linked to a symbolist conception that saw in the vegetable and animal nature the fundamental laws of universe, a new artistic language is born. The vitalistic thrust of the historical avant-gardes, the industrial revolution replace the myth of nature, the spirit of the machine, the geometry of the gears, the prismatic shapes of skyscrapers, the artificial lights of the city.
As part of a recent rediscovery of culture and art in the 1920s and, in particular, of that particular taste defined "Style 1925", from the year of the well-known Universal Exhibition in Paris dedicated to Arts Decoratifs, hence the successful formula Art Déco, which sanctioned morphologies and models, the idea of an exhibition was born that proposes images and reinterpretations of a series of historical-cultural events and artistic phenomena that crossed Italy and Europe in the period between the first post-war period and the world crisis of 1929, gradually taking on national declinations and characteristics, as shown not only by the numerous architectural, pictorial and sculptural works, but above all by the extraordinary production of decorative arts.
Villa Raffaella in Bologna Villa Raffaella in Bologna (1922) by Mario Mirko VucetichItalia Liberty
A style for all decorative arts
The Déco taste was the style of cinemas, railway stations, theaters, ocean liners, public buildings, large bourgeois residences: it was, above all, a stylistic form, with clearly recognizable features, which it influenced at different levels the entire production of decorative arts, from furniture to ceramics, from the windows to wrought iron, from jewelery to fashion fabrics in the twenties and early thirties, as well as the shape of cars, advertising signs, sculpture and painting in decorative function.
Villa Sommaruga (1921) by Silvio GambiniItalia Liberty
Ponti nursery school project. Detail of the elevation (1928) by Mario Mirko VucetichItalia Liberty
The reasons for this new expressive and taste system can be recognized in various avant-garde movements (the Central European Secessions, Cubism and Fauvism, Futurism) in which various artists participate such as Picasso, Matisse, Lhote, Schad...
Ponti nursery school project. The gym (1928) by Mario Mirko VucetichItalia Liberty
While among the international protagonists, at least the names of Ruhlmann, Lalique, Brandt, Dupas, Cartier, as well as the aristocratic and worldly portraiture of Tamara de Lempicka and the sculptures of Chiparus, which feeds the myth of the dancer Isadora Duncan, should be mentioned.
Between novelty and nostalgia
The Déco phenomenon crossed the decade 1919-1929 with a disruptive force with furnishings, ceramics, glass, worked metals, fabrics, bronzes, stuccos, jewels, silver, clothes, embodying the vigor of high artisan and proto-industrial production and contributing to the birth of design and "Made in Italy". The demand from a market increasingly thirsty for novelty, but at the same time nostalgic for the tradition of Italian artistic craftsmanship, had literally caused an extraordinary production of objects and decorative forms to explode in the 1920s: from the lighting systems of Martinuzzi, Venini and the Fontana Arte by Pietro Chiesa, to ceramics by Gio Ponti, Giovanni Gariboldi, Guido Andloviz, from the sculptures of Adolfo Wildt, Arturo Martini and Libero Andreotti, to the Lenci statues or to the highly original sculptures by Sirio Tofanari, from the Byzantine goldsmiths of Ravasco to silver of the Finzi, from the furnishings of Buzzi, Ponti, Lancia, Portaluppi to the precious silks of Ravasi, Ratti and Fortuny, as well as the cloth tapestries by Depero.
Lancia (1915)Italia Liberty
Villa architect Gambini (1933) by Silvio GambiniItalia Liberty
Curonian competition Curonian competition (1920) by Mario Mirko VucetichItalia Liberty
Curonian competition (1928) by Mario Mirko VucetichItalia Liberty
Curonian competition (1928) by Mario Mirko VucetichItalia Liberty
Viserba - Villino Buzzi (1916)Italia Liberty
Villa Riva Favria Canavese (1931) by Silvio GambiniItalia Liberty
Highway station (1930) by Silvio GambiniItalia Liberty
Reform of architect Gambini (1930) by Silvio GambiniItalia Liberty
Kiosk for refueling (1935) by Silvio GambiniItalia Liberty
Capri Garden (1930) by Mario Mirko VucetichItalia Liberty
Exhibition “Art Déco. The Roaring Years in Italy ”set up at the San Domenico Museums complex in Forlì in 2017.