The SS Art Deco: A Fictional Journey With Art Deco Artists

From carpentry to glassblowing, metalsmithing to embroidery, Art Deco Artists revolutionized every artisan craft in their quest for modern design. The widely varied skillsets, backgrounds, and sensibilities of the luminaries that defined the Art Deco Movement contributed to the versatility of the period.

We return to the world of Art Deco today to learn more about the individual talents behind the decorative arts.  For an in-depth look at the style features of Art Deco, check out our Blog Post from last week. And be sure to read up on the more general history of Art Deco Style, in our blog post from last month.

Masters at Work

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An art deco poster for the Art Deco ocean liner SS Normandie

In order to fund their individual workshops and design projects, Art Deco Artists were often hired to redesign entire homes, apartments, or ocean liners. That was how the vast majority of craftsmen made their living and were able to sustain their creative workshops.

To gain a sense of how the great artists of the movement worked and what their specific contributions were, let us imagine them collaborating on one large design project.

We want to invite you aboard a fictional ocean liner, the SS Art Deco. In this world of our own creation, we’ve invited major figures from the Art Deco Movement aboard to redesign the interior of the ship and prepare it for our exclusive early 20thcentury clientele.

Stepping Aboard the SS Art Deco

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The lounge of the SS Ile de France, an Art Deco ocean liner with interior decor by Jules Leleu

When French designer Jules Leleu first steps aboard our imposing vessel, he see two of his proudest achievements reflected in it. Leleu achieved recognition for designing the SS Normandie and the SS Ile de France, and here, aboard the SS Art Deco, he encounters his familiar imposing curves: a large entry stairwell connecting the many floors.

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An Art Deco chandelier by Edgar Brandt

High above hangs an imposing chandelier, forged from iron. It is the recognizable work of Edgar Brandt, who was inspired as a metalsmith by great masters like Georg Jensen (who we featured in a blog post last month).

It is the early 1930s, and Art Deco embodies modernity in every sense of the word. A floating city, with amenities beyond compare. There is a pool and even a cinema on board. The cinema attracts much attention: many guests marvel at the technology of a changing world. This is the world of Art Deco Artists, full of fine arts, innovation, and dreams.

Inside the Lounges

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A Rene Lalique Glass Lamp

We follow Leleu into a lounge, where his recognizable ocean liner chairs are illuminated by beautifully woven glass fixtures from Rene-Jules Lalique. Lalique is there, admiring the gentle curves of his lamps – how the light filters onto the soft blue linen of Leleu’s chairs.

The two men may have met in Paris, but they are of different generations. Leleu is young and full of excitement for modernity, embracing the machine. Lalique is twenty years his senior. His glass designs are dreamy, with a joyful, Art Nouveau-inspired touch. While geometric and industrial, they remind Leleu of the opulence of days gone by.

Inside the Bedrooms

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A simple, sleek Art Deco table by Eugene Printz

Leleu next climbs to his bedroom. Each of the first-class suites is furnished with a desk by Eugene Printz and a striking dresser by the inspiration of all Art Deco Artists, Emile-Jacques Ruhlmann.

We’ve encountered Ruhlmann before. His designs center around contrasting dark woods with light materials like ivory. Printz, too, is focused on the details: his desks feature elaborate knobs of gilded bronze.

The bedrooms are warmly lit by strikingly modern fixtures. We’ve invited the Swedish couple Walter and Greta von Nessen to bring their futuristic Art Deco designs into the living spaces of our most renowned guests. Their lamps are tall and triangular, with an industrial grace that points ahead to the art movements to come.

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A folding screen by Eileen Gray

Eileen Gray’s Asiatic folding screens offer privacy as Leleu changes into his dinner clothes. Gray’s later designs, like her recognizable Bibendum chair, are too modern for this particular ocean liner.

Dinner Service

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A dining room set by Armand-Albert Rateau

Having changed into his formal attire, Leleu descends the liner into one of the grand dining rooms he helped design.

He has invited his idol Armand-Albert Rateau to design the dinner tables and chairs. Rateau is an admired name among Art Deco Artists; he has already designed interiors for the Duchess of Alba in Madrid.

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A design sketch of the first class dining room aboard an Art Deco Ocean Liner

After a luxurious meal and a short exposition in the cinema, Leleu retreats to his room, exhausted, but gratified with the world he has helped design aboard the SS Art Deco.

A World of Many Dreams

Let us leave behind our fictional ocean liner and the Art Deco era and think about what we have witnessed. We’ve encountered artists of different specialties, from France and abroad, some inspired more by the past, others by the future. Each and every one of them contributed to the movement.

That is what sets Art Deco apart. More so than perhaps any other recognizable art movement, ideas, not rules, define Art Deco:  Art Deco Artists combine the beauty and bravery of a new age with the whimsy and craftsmanship of time-honored traditions.

Though the SS Art Deco never set sail, its principles can inspire our own interiors. Sometimes, combining pieces from different inspirations can create an entire movement.

Shop our Styylish catalogue for pieces from the Art Deco period today, and float away on a dream of your own creation.

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