Saturday, June 1, 2013

Great Gatsby!

I'm probably the only person who hasn't seen the new Gatsby movie yet (but I feel like I've seen the previews at least a hundred times). I figured that I wanted to see the Mia Farrow/Robert Redford version once before it became unwatchable forever.
      It's hard to imagine the text of the film without the overlay of Art Deco, and from what I've seen of the new film, it looks like that veneer is a little thicker than on the 1974 version.

Detail from an illustration by George Barbier

One of the things to love about Art Deco is the way that it flirts with so many other art and design movements in-play at the beginning of the 20th century— flirts with them and then ties them up and wraps them in cellophane… There's this veneer of superficiality, with the promise of genuineness lurking somewhere beneath the surface. Nothing quite conveys this like the graphical works of George Barbier, and Giovanni Meschini, the master of the pouchoir postcard. These situational illustrations had to be an influence on the art direction for the recent Gatsby film. 

Illustration by Giovanni Meschini

The DoverPictura collection, Art Deco Designs

Art Deco Design (048699807X)

was assembled with this notion of multiple influences in mind, and in it I tried to present a selection that references many of the significant movements that are reflected in Art Deco. Influences of the Arts & Crafts movement, especially in America and Great Britain, can be seen in the wood-carvings and bas-relief sculpture:

In contributions from German sources you can see elements of the nascent Expressionist movement—both in the edgy cabaret line drawings:

and the aggressive, hard-edge logos and commercial graphics:

The line between Art Nouveau and Art Deco has always been bit blurry to my eyes—perhaps you can see what I mean in the many highly-colorful, geometric and floral pattern pieces:

If you have a project in mind with an Art Deco theme you should check out this collection. It covers the scope of the movement from it's most basic black & white, to the wildly colorful; from the highly figurative work of Barbier and Meschini, to hard-edge, geometric abstractions. The collection is comprised of 227 JPG and TIF image files; many of the images also come in an EPS vector format.


  1. I am quite curious about the bas-relief sculpture of the male walking through a jungle accompanied by a bear, leopard, with serpent and monkeys in the trees. It seems to from a story or legend, and I have seen one other example of this theme almost identical. Is there any information on what the theme or subject actually is?

  2. This must be an illustration for "The Jungle Book" by Rudyard Kipling.