Art Nouveau & Art Deco in The United States
The Art Nouveau Period In The United States
The Art Nouveau period in the United States was at its pinnacle from 1890 to 1910 before fading out in the beginning of the roaring twenties. Regarding decorative arts, the period was dominated by Louis Comfort Tiffany and Tiffany Studios, Duffner and Kimberly, and other New York-based decorative arts firms specializing in bronze table lamps with leaded glass shades, vases, bowls, candlesticks, desk sets, and various other household accents and accessories.
Art Nouveau design was intricate yet organic, table lamps were commonly comprised of floral or geometric patterns, with rare Tiffany lamps featuring a hanging head dragonfly pattern. Bases were commonly inspired by trees with a natural, organic flow to the casting.
Near the end of the Art Nouveau period, lower quality spelter lamps and sculpture became popular as cheaper alternatives to New York firms. During this transitional time between the Art Nouveau and Art Deco period, it was common to see female form patinated spelter lamps and decorative arts.
The form was sensualized in pose and demeanor, but rarely exposed, and if so, only partially. The organic flow of earlier foliate and vine designs transitioned to fluent diaphanous drapery on elegant female forms. While these designs could be considered risqué for 1915 America and the Art Nouveau period, it is nothing compared to what followed.
The Art Deco Period In The United States
The Art Deco period brought vast changes in art and design. It was no longer a time of graceful and organic compositions with layered intricacies, but that of stark and crisp form with defined lines and angles dominated by the female figure. The female body as a subject was anonymized with an accentuated physique and commonly used in lamps, ashtrays, bookends, and clocks among many other things.
The one company who did it better than anyone else and is still popularly collected today is Frankart. Founded in 1922, Frankart Inc. was a New York firm specializing in spelter decorative arts capitalizing on the Art Deco period. Contrary to the dark patinations seen in the Art Nouveau, Frankart finished most of their works in a sea foam green or silver finish. Frankart was mass produced and not of the quality of its Art Nouveau predecessors, but it’s avant-garde high style designs at affordable prices made them a commodity. In today’s market at Auction, certain Frankart pieces can be worth thousands.
When it comes to factoring a piece’s value, the three factors are size, condition, and of course rarity. For example, having a large two-foot-tall ashtray of a standing nude with perfect original paint translates to $800 to $1,200 at auction. That same ashtray missing a portion of its finish with the spelter exposed would more than likely sell for $500 or less, so condition is key.
If you’re sitting at home with a stash of your grandfather’s Art Deco furnishings, it’s crucial to contact a trusted specialist and auction house. With items of specialized interest, marketing is very important, and if they end up at the wrong auction house, I’m sure to be there to buy it, that’s why this exemplar photo was taken on my living room table.