Usually when an art historian, critic, or collector sees an object created during the Art Deco era, they know it right away. There are certain features that defined the period and for good reason. It was a turning point for the world because the war had just ended and society wanted to embrace the good things in life. Every day life turned toward lavish life and the furniture, art, lighting, architecture, and interior design of the period reflected those changes. In contrast to the messiness of war, the Art Deco time period of the 1920s, 1930s, and even into the 1940s embraced bright, bold, modern accessories in every avenue. To be more specific, there are a number of trademark characteristics of Art Deco that are always the same and can be listed below. These will always help you to determine if the piece is Art Deco, an imposter, or just a modern piece that was modeled after an authentic one.
Geometric Shapes: These are heavily incorporated into Art Deco style because of their boldness. They rise in high peaks and starbursts, fan out in squares, and spread in long lines. These shapes often come in large numbers that spread out into patterns. A good example of Art Deco shapes would be the top of the Chrystler Building. It showcases rounded shelves with triangles pointing toward the sky and many rows or parallel lines filling in the spaces between.
Rich Colors: These are most notably seen actual Art Deco art, which used a lot of nude models and geometric shapes of great color. The colors, again, were in contrast to the cold and numbing bleakness of war where only black, grey, and brown were prominent. Bright and deep yellows, reds, blues, and greens were incorporated into a great deal of sculptures and oil paintings.
Metals: Because Art Deco was also a representation of the progression of the time, it used metals to make a connection to industry. New and exciting changes were taking place in industry and society was following. Many precious metals were also indicative of a glamorous lifestyle, like silver, ivory, gold, and alabaster. Industry was taking a big leap and employing a great deal of the nation. Things like cars and trains were in high use, and the decor followed the trend.
Bold Lines: No matter what sort of Art Deco piece you are looking at, there are going to be strong sleek lines involved. This holds true in the traditional paintings and sculptures but it also translates into Art Deco light fixtures, furniture, ceramics, clocks, accessories, and even tableware. Striking, thick lines revolve around many items and cross throughout to define shapes and outline colors. None of the colors or shapes in paintings of the time come without thick black lines in between. Lines are used to draw attention to one area or to give an overall feeling of robustness or movement.
Art Deco style is one that sits all on its own. It can be clearly picked out and highlights the changing mindset of a culture.