Monday, April 20, 2009

Happy Vacation!

I'll be in and out a bit over the next two weeks -- Spending some much needed time on vacation!

Image courtesy of Shorpy

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Nouveau to Deco

Alphonse Mucha Job 1897 (Art Nouveau)

A comparison between Art Nouveau and Art Deco came to mind as a topic of great interest to those of us who deal in the decorative arts. Although I claim no professional knowledge of the topic, I do understand a little bit of the history between the two.Antoni Gaudi, Casa Batllo, Barcelona, 1904-06 (Art Nouveau)

Art Nouveau is a style that was once considered avant garde and ground breaking. Traditional artists and craftsman shunned the flowing lines and whiplashes of this new art. Yet with proponents like Bing, Sarah Bernhardt, and Toulouse Lautrec, Art Nouveau found a voice, particularly at the 1900 Exposition Universelle.

The years between 1895 and 1910 saw an explosion of Art Nouveau work and proved the movement to be a reckoning force. The short time span is what makes Art Nouveau furniture, jewelry, and art work so valuable – It was only made for a specific time period, one that barely spanned a decade.

So, what exactly is Art Nouveau? Well, it’s a romantic style full of grace. Motifs include beautiful women with flowing hair, a strong tendency toward natural elements, and a distinct lack of symmetry. Excluding the gorgeous women (don’t we all wish we were so alluring), most portrayals of nature were realistic. Beauty was of utmost importance.
Cover, Harper's Bazaar, by Erte December 1929 (Art Deco)

Just as Art Nouveau was a reaction against the strict regime of traditional styles, Art Deco was the antidote for the freeflowing lines of its predecessor. Beginning in the 20’s, this style dominated the decorative arts for over two decades. In 1925, Art Deco work was the norm at the International Exposition of Modern Industrial and Decorative Art held in Paris.

Art Deco is in so many ways the geometric arch rival to Art Nouveau. Both were new and refreshing during their “reign”. Where Art Nouveau is curvaceous, Art Deco is linear. Shapes and straight lines dominant the palate. Its sophistication is portrayed through simple lines and stylized natural motifs, in exact opposition to the realistic approach of Art Nouveau.Silvered bronze bookends
by Maurice Guiraud -Riviera (Art Deco)

Please feel free to comment on your favorite style or to add to this short little history. In no way do I consider myself a scholar, so corrections and additions will be met with sincere interest.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Timeless Design

From my first foray into vintage clothing until now, I've loved the classic yet fun designs of Vera Neumann. For a few dollars, I could instantly make my bland outfit bold and sassy using a scarf from her collection.
Stunning Orange Vera Scarf, Available on Rubylane

Vera began her business in her NYC apartment alongside her partner & husband George Neumann. This first foray was placemats which they sold to the B. Altman department store. Her patterns were an immediate success thus encouraging Vera to try different items, such as tablecloths and other kitchen ware. In the 1960s, she began designing her fabulous scarves.

Vera for Anthropologie

What an inspiration to women entreprenuers! From her humble beginnings to her amazing success, Vera is a wonderful story of how one woman (and her husband) can make it!

Vera for Anthropologie

Vera combined colors in new and exciting ways - Certainly not your grandmother's scarves (unless you have an uber hip grannie and thus I salute you)!
Whimsical animal Vera Scarf, available here

Anthropologie has now commissioned the Vera company to make some exclusive items for their stores and catalogues. Anthro is my favorite store and it only makes sense that they too appreciate the Vera designs.

Lovely Poppy long scarf, available here

Even Vera's signature is artistic and refreshing... One of her icons is the lady bug, which she chose as her trademark to symbolize "good luck, long life and happiness."

I personally feel Vera's designs are currently under valued. Many are available online for less than $10. An original piece of artwork for $10- What a bargain! I believe her vintage items will become more valuable in the up coming years, especially since savvy stores like Anthropologie are taking notice of Vera designs.

Here's hoping you find a Vera treasure in your thriftin' forays...

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Resting in Peace

One of my favorite things to do when in an older city is visit their graveyards. Today, this may seem a little strange; however, in the 19th century, this is exactly what these resting places were arranged for. A movement to make graveyards more appealing and a place to wander happened in the mid 1800s. This transition started first in England and then became the norm here in the states. The cemetery became a place where you would take a leisurely stroll, much like a park. As one meanders through the paths, specific iconography can be seen. Common elements such as flowers and angels abound.For instance, an open flower typically means the deceased was older while a small bud represents an early death. Wheat sheaves refer to the "pruning" of God's chosen ones (think of the wheat and chaff dichotomy). Stumps and wood are generally associated with Masonic members. Lambs represent the young and innocent.

There are several interesting books on this topic. I specifically recommend Stories in Stone: The Complete Guide to Cemetery Symbolism. The pictures are wonderful, and the text is very interesting.

I hope you've enjoyed this little "stroll". Hopefully you'll now take more than a passing fancy to the graveyards when traveling to a new city.

All photographs used in this post are from Oakdale in Wilmington, N.C. I highly recommend visiting this cemetery - It has some of the best carvings I have seen outside of Vermont and Massachusetts.