Guest post: What makes a lighting piece Art Deco?

The Art Deco period is the first period of mass-produced electrical lighting in history. It was a wild time of great inventiveness. We’ll take a look at a few sample pieces and explain exactly what makes them Art Deco.

Electrical lighting was a sign of luxury, especially in the era of the Great Depression. Those who could afford to use electrical light wanted to show it off, and Art Deco styling allowed them to do just that. Old wall sconces that were once used for candles were replaced by electrical ones. This was especially common in bathrooms. While the first plastics were created during this period and there are examples of bakelite lights, most surviving Art Deco lighting pieces use glass and metal and are quite heavy.

Art Deco LightingHere is an example of an Art Deco chandelier. The first thing that catches the eye is the elaborate ceiling fixture. The fixture draws attention to the electric light. Notice the strong geometric patterns stacked on top of one another. This is a classic Art Deco signal. Panels like these were easily mass-produced and layered to make these gorgeous fixtures.

It is difficult to see in this portrait, but the portion of the fixture inside the red border is heavily ornamented. There is a sunburst design toward the top of the frame closest to the viewer. Shapes like sunbursts and chevrons are also key signals for Art Deco. These represent power and growing progress, two themes that run through Art Deco architecture and design.

In the center of the fixture is a simple brass pole leading down to the chandelier. Frosted glass was the common lampshade material during this time, and designers were experimenting with new shapes. In this piece, the shades are shaped like cones to throw the light upward, highlighting the fixture.

Art Deco LightingHere is a simpler piece from 1925 near the very beginning of the Art Deco period. It is a desk lamp. Mass production allowed the use of materials that were too expensive or difficult to work with by artists, such as chrome. The use of metal in everyday objects was seen as a sign of luxury. This lamp is made entirely of metal. Note the strong geometric design of the head and foot of the lamp and its contrast with the curved cylinders of the body. This contrast of strong lines and gentle curves is another feature of Art Deco design.

Many of our basic lighting ideas that we use today are inspired by this early period, such as the use of lights above a mirror or a central light in the middle of a room. We still use brass, chromed metal, and frosted glass in most of our lighting. All of this stems back to the ideas formed in the original designers of electrical lighting fixtures in the Art Deco period.

Article provided by Art Deco Antiques, a provider of art deco era inspired furniture.

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