I have chosen Art Deco as the subject of this art gallery selection.
During a recent staying in Salamanca this turned out to be the topic of my first project. Consequently, we will begin this artistic journey there.
Art Deco had an influence on every field concerned with design. The term makes reference to certain artistic expression in the period between World War I and World War II. The 1925 Paris Exhibition (the Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes), brought together thousands of designs from all over Europe and beyond, and received over 16 million visitors. It was Bevis Hillier, an English historian, who used this concept in his work Art Deco of the 20´s and 30´s in 1968. (Victoria & Albert Museum www.vam.ac.uk).
Art Deco influence is still felt nowadays. Distinctive lines and geometric patterns establish a difference from curving organic shapes characteristic of Art Nouveau. Luxurious materials, superb craftmanship and simple shapes are relevant features. It is an eclectic style which takes advantage of several trends. Mainly, the avant-gardes, the increasing mechanisation, and the archeological discoveries in Egypt and Mesopotamia (Tutankhamun´s tomb was discovered in 1922).
An idealized Orientalism built on stereotypes and preconceptions seduced the public. Remote cultures provided a world of mystery and sensuality and opened the realms of fantasy.
Undoubtedly, the chryselephantine-technique (from chrysos, gold and elephas, ivory) provides the finest examples of Art Deco between the 1920´s and 1930´s. The best sculptors devoted their work to this elegant and exotic woman. Demetre Chiparus or Paul Philippe show a colourful expressiveness in their works.
Russian dancer, by Paul Philippe. (Photographer, Óscar J. González Hernández)
This precious sculpture shows a young female dancer wearing a gilt dress. She is also wearing a headband which frames the whiteness and purity of the ivory and the fine handmade features of her face, hair and arms. Her arms are outstretched while balancing on one foot. A bracelet on her left hand leads the eyes of the spectator towards her left arm, which is in a higher position than the rest of her body to enjoy the daintiness of her arm. Then, the sight moves from right to left following her right arm direction. Movement is the outstanding feature in this masterpiece. It is stressed in the folds and flounces in the dancer’s dress, and the dynamic choreography she is performing. There is a striking contrast with the serenity in her face. A careful study of the woman’s anatomy is remarkably achieved. Her upward progress forces the sight to follow her ballet shoe, reflecting the lace tightened around her standing left leg.
This sculpture is made of gold-plated bronze and ivory. It stands on a marble pedestal. It is 63cm high, and it was made in 1913. The lady's clothes are mainly golden in colour, whereas the belt, the trims in the skirt and top of her dress are furnished with red hearts, two flowers, and extensively rounded shapes imitating buttons. The aforementioned decoration provides further volume to her outfit, and together with the jewels on her head and hand, frame and highlight her exquisite features.
According to Sotherby’s catalogue (www.sotherbys.com), the model for this sculpture seems to be the Ballets Russes dancer Ludmilla Schollar, wearing a costume based on designs for the ballet Cléopâtre.
The so-called cold-painted bronze technique makes reference to colourful bronze or either spelter figures, which were covered with enamel paint. Art deco figurines of women, were mainly made of these metals, Nevertheless, ivory was used for the hands and faces. (The Columbus Dispatch,
The artist, Paul Philippe (Polish 1870-1930), studied sculpture at the École des Beaux Arts in Paris under Antonin Larroux (1859-1913). He exhibited with success at all the French salons. Philippe worked in both the Art Nouveau and Art Deco styles. Working in bronze, bronze and ivory, and pure ivory his sculptures are sought after worldwide collectors. Amongst his most recognised works are Le Reveil (The Awakening), Russian Dancer, and ‘Radha’ (Hickmet Fine Arts. Many works by the artist have been sold at auction, including Russian Dancer. One was sold at Christie’s King Street ’20 Century Decorative Arts & Design’ in 2010 for $46.193.
In contrast to other artistic styles, Art Deco was basically decorative. Broadly speaking, artists did not aim at expressing feelings or emotions. Rather they tried to create beautifully designed and well balanced objects, only to reflect the time and the society where they lived. Great technological development featured that moment in time. The first skyscrapers are built, aeroplanes, submarines and automobiles too. Progress is shown through a style mirroring speed, machines, enthusiasm and the joy of life.