Times & Places

French Art Deco

During the first quarter of the 20th century, French designers, manufacturers, and merchants became increasingly worried about their country’s position as a leader in the field of design. To bolster France’s reputation, a trade fair was held in Paris in 1925. The style that coalesced around this event came to be called art deco, a term derived in the 1960s from the formal title of the fair—Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industrials Modernes (International Exposition of Modern Decorative and Industrial Arts).

Although the art deco style initially drew inspiration from the preceding art nouveau taste, as well as from 18th-century French sources, it was generally characterized by abstract geometric shapes, expressive zigzag lines, and luxurious materials. Many of the pieces seen here are the work of designers who either exhibited at the 1925 fair or were influenced by those who did.

Art deco was originally a French phenomenon; however, the taste found great acceptance abroad in the years before World War II. In places as distant as Japan and India, the art deco style found single patrons, while in Europe and the United States art deco styling was widely employed in the design of everything from textiles to skyscrapers in the late 1920s and 1930s.

Adapted from

Charles Venable, wall text from the 11/18/2001 to 5/20/2002 exhibition“Art Deco and Streamlined Modern Design, 1920-1950”

Web Resources

The Metropolitan Museum of Art
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