Thursday, July 18, 2013

Is The Great Gatsby Art Nouveau or Art Deco?

So, your coming home from watching The Great Gatsby. You're completely inspired, and now you want EVERYTHING glam, everything Gatsby. What do you drop into your Google search other than "Gatsby style" or "Jazz age"?

Maybe Art Nouveau or Art Deco? 

But which one?

Well, the truth is The Great Gatsby takes place in the summer of 1922, and the novel was published in 1925. The story is set and published at the very beginning of Art Deco. While Art Deco is derivative of Art Nouveau...

(in fact a lot of the artist who began Art Deco were also involved in Art Nouveau)

...They are very different.

This post talks about the difference between the Art Nouveau and the Art Deco movements, and how they have been translated into 2013 Etsy trends.

Art Nouveau (1880's - WWI)
Think of Art Nouveau as a celebration of craftsmanship and design. This movement caused artist to rethink everyday objects, and considers everyday objects should be viewed as a work of art.

Characteristics of Nouveau: 
  • Rhythmic, whiplash style line work (yes, that's what the line work is seriously referred to as, see a link below that will give you a much more in depth description of it!)
  • Floral derivative forms
  • organic and harmonious compositions
  • Craftsmanship
  • Flat utilitarian perspective
Art Nouveau is influenced by:
  • Japanese wood block prints (hence the flat perspective and line work ;) )
  • Celtic designs ( take a second look at the whiplash examples, and a glance at the letterpress blocks below)
  • English Arts and Crafts movement
  • Romanticism
  • Pre-Raphaelites

Czech painter, Alphonse Maria Mucha (1860 - 1939), painted during the height of the Art Nouveau movement. He created everything from posters, ad's, and paintings. He also designed jewelry, packaging designs and stained glass. 

His work is considered to be the most influential and iconic of the Art Nouveau movement, so we are going to look at his work to identify characteristics of this time period. 

Moët & Chandon White Star,
Alphonse Mucha, Lithograph, 1899.
Alfons Mucha [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
(link below)
Moët & Chandon Crémant Impérial
Alphonse Mucha, 
Lithograph, 1899.
Alfons Mucha [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
(link below)
Peonies, Alphonse Mucha,
ink and watercolor, 1897
via [Public Domain] Wikimedia Commons
(link below)

Letterpress ART NOUVEAU LOWERCASE alphabet 26 pieces, a very iconic font of the nouveau period.
from TheLetterPressShop, on Etsy.

Black Dangle earings from 53Countesses, On etsy
These earrings are an excellent example of the thin, intricate, linear quality of Art Nouveau
Statement Necklace made from a Nouveau Era mold, trying to re-find this etsy shop so I can give proper credit! Please help!

Art Deco 1920-WWII
World War I causes a Conservation of materials and demanded a more stream lined production process.  After the war ended, Art Nouveau tranforms into Art Deco. Art Nouveau becomes streamed line, artist and craftsman begin to produce their objects with the consideration that they need to be simplified for industrial production, causing a unique, simple design with lavish materials.

Art Deco is influenced by:

  • Cubism and geometric forms (focus on shapes and planes)
  • Futurism
  • Art Nouveau 
  • Constructivism
  • Bauhaus
  • streamlined
  • rich, jewel-like colors
  • lavish materials
Tamara De Lempicka
Polish female artist, Tamara De Lempicka (1898 - 1980), comes from a significantly wealthy family. When Tamara was only 19,she and her husband fled from Russia after Tamara freed him from the Bolsheviks, in 1918. First they moved to Copenhagen, then to London, then finally to Paris where her painting career started to take off. By 1925 she had her first show in Milan from then she started pumping out paintings, like a machine, ranging from 20-60 paintings in a year.
Her work can be described as
  • Soft geometric forms (cubist influce)
  • portraits of powerful, female aristocrats (Material wealth)
  • High-contrast, or chromelike luminosity (futurism influence, and a reference to lavish materials)
  • focus on shapes, and planes (again, a cubist influence)

My Portrait, Tamara De Lempicka, 1929.
via Picasa web
Young Lady with Gloves, Tamara De Lempicka, 1929.
via Picasa web. 

The color palette and the dress featured in the painting above remind me SO much of the dress that Kierra Knightly wore in Atonement.
Kierra Knightly in a green evening gown in  the film, Atonement.
image found on
When you think Art Deco, you need to also think Bauhaus, and Futurism. Below are some typefaces created from the infamous Cassandre. If you compare them with the typfaces from the Letter Press shop blocks, you will notice that the Deco fonts are much more geometric, streamlined, and sans serifed whereas the Nouveau font is very organic, curved and serif.

Bifur Typface, drawn and designed by Cassandre in 1937
By EliseEtc (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (],
via Wikimedia Commons
Acier, drawn and designed by Cassandre in 1937.
By EliseEtc (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (],
via Wikimedia Commons
Peignot typeface, drawn by Cassandre in 1937.By EliseEtc (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (],
via Wikimedia Commons.

Handmade - Art Deco dress from Cihanbey Boutique, on etsy.

Art Deco Earrings Architectural Jewelry black and silver, for sale at the Sandrandan Etsy shop

Now you know the basic differences of both styles and can tell them apart. 
Based on your own personal preference, you can choose to either shop for Deco or Nouveau. 
For the next post we're going to compare current gatsby inspired trends with trends of Art Deco and the roaring twenties

Further Reading /bibliography: 

Alphonse Maria Mucha

Tamara De Lempicka

Art nouveau "whiplash" description, with examples

Art Deco wiki description

Links to Images

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