Simanaitis Says

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I’M LISTENING to a CD of contralto Nathalie Stutzmann singing the songs of Francis Poulenc, and it’s giving me daydreams of Art Deco. This design style, short for Arts Décoratifs, evolved from a Paris exhibition of 1925, l’Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes. Art Deco wasn’t afraid of technology, unlike its organic predecessor Art Nouveau. The style celebrated faith in social and technological progress, a sentiment not overly abundant in current times. Thus, my Deco dreaming.


Poulenc: Montparnasse, Melodies of Francis Poulenc, contralto Nathalie Stutzmann, pianist Inger Södergren, BMG, 1999.

Francis Poulenc had a knack of combining talents, whether in his activities with composers forming Les Six or in choosing just the right poetry as lyrics for his melodies. I can sense the aroma of Gauloises in music that’s redolent of a 1920s’ Parisian piano bar. It’s appropriate that the CD notes begin each section with Art Deco typeface.


Art Deco Interiors in Color, edited by Charles Rahn Fry, Dover Publications, 1977.

Charles Rahn Fry’s book on the subject, Art Deco Interiors in Color, displays the elements of Art Deco that appeal to me: its rectilinear shapes, a bit austere but enlivened with vibrant colors. I like as well that many of the interiors pictured in the book are amply supplied with bookcases.


Above, Living Room by Francis Jourdan, original from Intérieurs français, 1925. Below, Child’s Room by Ginsburger, original from Répertoire du goût moderne, 1928 & 1929.


Fry’s favorite image, the boudoir-library by Jacques-Emile Ruhlmann, also displays plenty of books. He notes, “The enormous ceilings provide for a grandeur made livable by the homey aura with which the filled bookcases endow the chamber.” The room’s Art Nouveau opulence reflects its 1918 origin, just a tad pre-Deco.


Boudoir-library by Jacques-Emile Ruhlmann, original from Harmonies: Intérieurs de Ruhlmann, 1924.

Fry notes that many of the images in Art Deco Interiors in Color were originally produced by pochoir. The process, after the French word for stencil, uses as many as 20 different hand-colored stencils to define colors of a single image.  

Art of the era also influenced automotive styling. At its extreme, artist Sonia Delaunay applied her Orphic Cubism concepts of geometric shapes and strong colors to a 1925 Citroën B12, not to say to a woman’s matching ensemble.


Citroën B12 and a fashionable woman, designs by Sonia Delaunay, 1925. Image from Designing Dreams: Modern Architecture in the Movies (Architecture and Film), by Donald Albrecht, Harper & Row/The Museum of Modern Art, 1986.

Le Corbusier’s designs were rather less extreme but resoundingly Deco. His Voiture Minimum displayed its affinity with technology. One of his favorite daily drivers, a Voisin Lumineuse, showed this French automaker’s love of Deco’s rectilinear shapes.


Above, Le Corbusier’s Voiture Minimum, 1928. Below, Le Corbusier and his Voisin Lumineuse.


My favorite Voisin is the 1935 C28 Aérosport Coupé, another of this eccentric automaker’s rolling examples of Art Deco.


1935 Voisin C28 Aérosport Coupé.

Were the Aérosport equipped with a modern sound system, I’d enjoy a drive while listening to Nathalie Stutzmann singing Poulenc. ds

© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays, 2016.

2 comments on “DECO DREAMING

  1. Michael Rubin
    March 4, 2016

    Le Corbusier’s ‘Voiture Minimum’ looks like the inspiration for Wm Motta’s contemporary classic Cyclops.

  2. kkollwitz
    March 6, 2016

    That C28 is a fearless thing.

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