Archive for August, 2010


On a recent trip to my favorite local antiques dealer here in Austin, I stumbled upon a vase which resembles the following:

I found the nearest clerk and inquired about the piece.  The clerk told me that the piece dated from “around the turn of the 20th Century”, and featured ”Art Deco Styling”.  Hmmm…red flag.  Why, you ask?  

Experts agree — Art Deco Style directly descended from the globalization of the artistic and home decor markets, mostly because of a resurgence in American interest in French (and other European) trends across the creative arts.  If you have visited French cities like Montmarte (where the foreign language film Amelie takes place), I’m sure you noticed the types of painting reproductions sold in local shops, mostly conceived by the famous French artist Henri Toulouse-Lautrec

Toulouse-Lautrec was an “archetypal bohemian artist” who lived in Montmarte (a Parisian suburb) and created Impressionist art during the belle époque, or “beautiful era” of Paris, roughly during the 1890′s.  Henri is best known for his dancing, flowing female forms, and often painted advertisement posters for the infamous cabaret, Moulin Rouge (from which he painted this scene, and one of his most revered works). 

This style is considered Art Nouveau.

The Impressionists during the late 19th Century celebrated not only a strong feminine aesthetic, but the forms of flowering blooms and other natural elements (remember Monet’s Lilypads, Renoir’s Sisters at a Piano, etc).  The pastel, almost cloudy and soft nature of the Impressionists bled into Art Nouveau pottery, glasswork, and architecture easily, and the the genre names are considered somewhat interchangeable.  I’m sure you can see the subdued colors and sweeping, feminine curves indicated by the vase pictured above, and several obvious nods to nature.

So, back in the antiques shop in Austin, I politely corrected the store clerk.  I was pretty sure that the vase in question pre-dated the Art Deco era by at least 10 years, using the above argument.  However, the store clerk was still not convinced.  No worries!

I asked the clerk to turn the vase over, so we could look for a “born-on date”.  With pottery vases, this is rather easy to find, usually, and sure enough — there it was.  My proof.

“1895-1907″.

Art Deco didn’t officially begin until the 1920′s, and flourished from the Great Depression until WWII. The name comes from the 1925 Exposition “Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes” which featured the new high-end Parisian ”style moderne”.  Artists during this time shied away from the Impressionistic, soft florals and pastels of the Art Nouveau period and instead, began embracing Cubism, Futurism, and Neo-Classisism styles.

As interesting as I found this particular vase, I passed it by since it didn’t meet my particular criteria.  The store clerk actually thanked me for the information and offered to take down my email if she saw anything come in that might interest me — which makes my quest for great Art Deco pieces that much easier.

As a reference, here’s the series of questions I ask myself when shopping specifically for Art Deco Vases:

 

 

 

  • Question 1: Is the overall shape geometric (square, oval, round, angular)?
  • Question 2: Are the colors bold or solid (no pastels)?
  • Question 3: Is the overall design modern, industrial, and / or ”futuristic” (not soft, whimsical, and feminine)?
  • Question 4: Is there a “born-on-date” that shows a year between 1920-1945?
  • Question 5: Is it appealing? (truly the most important question!)

If the answers to all of these questions is YES, then you’ve found yourself a piece of Art Deco history!

 

 

I’d love to hear some of your stories.  Please leave a personal shopping experience in the comments below.  Enjoy, and good luck!

Look what I found!

Here's a beautiful art deco vase I just spotted!  I loved it so much, I decided to make it my profile picture. 😉  My sources tell me it is an "Art Deco Square Czechoslovakian Vase".  I adore the black and yellow — looks fabulous on my living room table!  Enjoy.

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