The Art Nouveau style blossomed around the world after the spectacular Paris exhibition of decorative arts in 1900. The sensuous flowing lines and elegant forms were derived from nature – notably birds, flowers, trees and insects. Butterflies and peacocks with iridescent colors were particularly popular. A new design style emerged in the 1920s, which became known as Art Deco after the Paris exhibition of 1925. In contrast to naturalistic curves, Art Deco featured abstract decoration and geometric shapes inspired by machines and man-made objects. British designer, Clarice Cliff introduced her Bizarre Ware at the Wilkinson factory in 1927 and it became hugely popular with the British public after the trauma of the Great War. War-weary Europeans cried out for vivid colors and amusing designs to enliven their drab surroundings.
In 1919, Charles and Nell Vyse opened a pottery studio in Chelsea, London where they made slip-cast pottery statuettes of mythological characters, gypsy peddlers, flower sellers and street entertainers. Each model was hand-painted differently and the flowers were all created painstakingly petal by petal in moist clay.
The Jazz Age
The fashions of the Jazz Age inspired porcelain figurines by Royal Doulton, Goldscheider, Lenci and other European factories. Flappers metamorphosed into butterflies for fancy dress balls during the roaring 1920s. The vogue for veil dancing and burlesque reviews led to revealing and nude sculptures of beautiful women. The 1930s was the “Golden Age of Hollywood” with motion pictures featuring iconic film stars whose sensual pin-up photos presented a new concept of glamour. Art Deco sculptors produced sleek, stylized models of humans and animals which were decorated in new glazes in shades of celadon green and moonstone. Richard Garbe reinterpreted his sculptures in ivory and bronze for ceramic figures produced by Royal Doulton and John Skeaping designed a series of stylized pottery animals for the Wedgwood factory.
In the USA, Art Deco skyscrapers, such as the Chrysler and Empire State buildings, vied for dominance of the New York skyline. A new style of streamlined architecture, stripped of ornament, emerged during the Great Depression of the 1930s, reflecting more austere economic times. Art Moderne introduced aerodynamic curves and nautical influences from the great transatlantic ocean liners. Ocean Drive in Miami Beach boasts some of the best surviving examples of Art Deco and Art Moderne architecture in the world.