Let the age of progress begin: at the beginning of the 20th century, the speed, movement, stress, and challenge marking the European avant-garde art movements merge into a decorative style that combines the modern world of machines and historical artisanal manners. That’s the Art Deco, which spread in the 1920s and 1930s in all the applied arts, also embracing the world of textiles.
The main features of Art Deco
The Art Nouveau movement, with its flowers and stylized and twisting figures, couldn’t convey the speed and power of machines and industry that fascinated artists at that time. They needed a more avant-garde style, which could communicate an idea of movement, as well as of luxury, during an age of economic growth.
Thus Art Deco was born, combining many different and sometimes contradictory styles: Cubism, Neoclassicism, Abstract art, Futurism, Modernism, and “primitive” arts such as African, Aztec, Egyptian and Greek, of the geometric and archaic periods. It was inspired by all technological innovations, especially related to transport. The result is something of great elegance, clean forms, originality, and refinement.
Among its characteristics are curved wide lines, geometries, simplifications and symbolism, and contrasting colors. Luxury is expressed in the choice of the most expensive materials and finest craftsmanship such as ebony wood furniture with exquisite ivory inlays, or handmade silk velvets.
From Paris, it spreads all over the world at the beginning of the 20th century and, in the United States, where it arrives a little later, it expresses some of its greatest examples, especially in architecture.
One of the iconic buildings of this style is the Madison Belmont Building, on Madison Avenue in New York, designed in 1925 by the architect Whitney Warren, who had studied in France. The seat of the old showroom and offices of the Cheney Silk Company, it boasts a splendid Art-Deco styled entrance.
The façade of the Madison Belmont Building
Art Deco patterns for luxury interior fabrics
And it was the portal of the Madison Belmont Building that inspired, with its clean, modern lines and dynamic spirals of stylized fountains, the Walls soprarizzo velvet and Walls lampas. Metallic yarns enrich these fabrics with shining gleams and opulence so dear to Art Deco.
Geometric elements are a recurring decoration, much loved by artists such as Eugène Grasset who stated that various simple geometric shapes like triangles and squares are the basis of all compositional arrangements. A perfect example of this principle is the Mir soprarizzo velvet. Among favorite motifs, there are the zig-zag ones, which suggest the idea of movement, such as the Zig Zag Velvet.
Egyptian art, in vogue at the beginning of the 20th century thanks to important archaeological discoveries, influences the Art Deco decorative motifs. The elegant stylized palm leaves of the Palmyra velvet are an example.
Like Art Nouveau, Art Deco is characterized by the presence of curved lines but quite wide rather than sinuous. They are often broken and combined with oblique straight lines to reinforce the idea of movement. And following this trend, Swedish architect Carl G. Bergsten designed the velvet to cover the walls of the stalls and galleries in Gothenburg’s City Theatre between 1932 and 1934. It’s the motif that still characterizes the Déco soprarizzo velvet and the Goteborg heddle velvet.
Cities, with their modern buildings and means of transportation, also become a source of inspiration for Art Deco motifs. They are futuristic metropolises, in which skyscrapers are the protagonists, just as in the Metropolis soprarizzo velvet which shows, in a stylized and abstract key, the cities of the future designed by the Bauhaus architects.
Metropolis soprarizzo velvet
Thanks to simple lines, primary colors, geometrical and simplified shapes and precious shiny details, Art Deco fabrics are still extremely contemporary and can add a modern but refined touch to any room.