Session 1
A New Style for the 20th Century

At the beginning of the 20th century, many European countries were competing for dominance in the high-fashion and luxury markets. French designers hoped to retain their control with a new style based on elegant geometric shapes. In a rare display of organization, the French were able to present the new Art Deco style at Art Salons just before World War I, thereby establishing their claim to innovative design.

In contrast to the rich and flowery style of Art Nouveau, the new Art Deco style boasted almost pure linear motifs and patterns, where the straight line often replaced the curve. Even ornaments based on nature became highly stylized, transformed into flattened bouquets, often constrained within geometric frames, circles, lozenges, and octagons. Such designs were suited to textiles as well as architecture; floral sculpted bas-reliefs and cast-iron guard-rails proliferated on French façades. Art Deco enabled the art of metalwork to reach new heights, with creations that appeared on buildings throughout the world. The new style also produced its own iconic emblem, one adaptable to perfume bottles, furniture, as well as costly textiles. This was the famous “Poiret or Iribe Rose”, a highly schematized motif originally designed by Paul Iribe, inspired by an 18th-century porcelain design.