In 1900, a group of French artists worked together in a collective which they called La Societe des artistes decorateurs (society of decorator artists) (the "Society"). The Society organized an international art exhibition in 1925, called the Exposition Intgernationale des Arts Decoratirs et Industriels Modernes (the "1925 Exhibition"). The term "art deco" comes from the title of the 1925 exhibition.
The 1925 Exhibition was held in Paris, and intended to solidify Paris as the center of art, style and design. Similar exhibitions were held in later years. Works from around the world were displayed, and millions of people attended the 1925 exhibition. The French Deco which was so popular at the time often included exotic flowers, drawings of animals, and great luxurious colors such as black and gold.
By 1930, Deco changed and embraced the architectural, engineering and structured forms of an industrial style of work. This Deco evolved to be based more on geometric shapes, and abandoned the lavish luxurious flourish for a structured line. The interiors of many movie theaters used an Art Deco style of decoration. Many Ocean Liners used Art Deco as part of their design style.
Art Deco was the basic architectural style used on buildings in many parts of the world. Some still survive in the U.S., most notably the Empire State Building and the Chrysler Building in New York City.
Materials commonly used in Art Deco include aluminum, stainless steel, and lacquer. The forms were often stepped, chevron patterns, and in general reflected a focus on the industrial development of the world.
The people who began this art movement considered themselves to be quite modern and forward-thinking. If we look back on history, from 1900 until the start of World War I, much of Europe considered themselves the cultural and political and economic center of the world, so it is natural they should take upon themselves the position of artistic leaders.
After World War I, it gets more interesting. The 1920s, the roaring twenties as they are called, were years of great optimism in much of the world. People believed that even if they didn't have money now, they would someday. They also believed in a liberation through modernity -- the idea that modern developments would somehow bring prosperity throughout the world.
Once the stock market crashed in 1929, all that changed. People were broke. Entire nations were broke. People had nothing, no future, no hope, no jobs, often no food. The mood turned to despair and in some countries, the fascists began to gain support with a nationalistic and militaristic ideology that told their supporters they were better than everyone else, and they had the right to go take what wealth and respect they deserved as a nation.
Some people contend that the Art Deco industrial style of post 1925 was a fascist style of design, that the focus on tough materials and strong lines were the same ideas as those promoted by fascists in Europe.
I don't know that deco art was or was not fascist. But as a group artists are interested in expressing what they see in the world, which for them, at that time, was a commitment to a future based on industrial strength and the ability to create through work, materials and ideas.
(The Jazz Bowl by Victor Schreckengost - 1930)
"The Jazz Bowl" is a well-known American Art Deco piece, originally created by Viktor Schreckengost when he worked at Cowan Pottery Studios. The bowl is a punch bowl, commissioned by a New York City gallery for one of its clients: Eleanor Roosevelt. The bowl was purchased by Eleanor to use at the celebration of her husband's election as Governor of New York. The Cowan Pottery Studio eventually produced other pieces in the Jazz series including other bowls and plates.