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Articles: Art Deco Lighting  
Art Deco Lamps and Lighting
by Andrea Kollo

The art deco style changed the way we looked at everything and how we felt about our homes and ourselves. Interior design has typically followed the lead of decorative architecture and furniture styles. The imagination was allowed to sore at this time and our freedom of personal expression became more and more important. What we put in our homes, how we chose to present ourselves was paramount.

Bare Lamp After WW1, there were major technical breakthroughs in industry, which transformed the ways in which lighting was used. Lighting became more than just a way to light our homes and manoeuvre our environment, it became in itself a decorative effect. In the art deco style, the use of simple lines, angles and textured glass and metal suddenly took on a new focus. No longer were lamps, chandeliers, wall sconces used to diffuse light, but were used to create harmonious and eye catching patterns of light and design. The new fixtures reflected the modern spirit.

The art of the lamp was born and it's personal and commercial appeal encouraged stunning designs that had never been conceived of before. Elaborate wrought iron fixtures using conventionalized animals, plants or geometric design married with opaque glass and alabaster inserts. Lalique, Edgar Brandt, Muller Freres, Nancy Daum and Sabino were known for combining cold, hard wrought iron with etched and colored glass. Table lamps became a personal expression of taste, style and an artist statement.

Lamp Bronze, spelter, chrome and pewter became another favorite for lamp bases, using fabulous geometric shapes, sculptural nude women and the famous stepped or ziggurat design. Nude lamps were also created in marble and alabaster, with stunning effect. One should consider these lamps as sculpture with the effect of translucent and romantic mood light as an added feature. Again, the departure from the Nouveau period where women were represented in a more ethereal and romantic light, to the now emancipated, modern woman being represented nude was socially acceptable and considered a risque departure into the new era.

Of the most recognized lamp makers who focused on nudes in the mid- to late 1920's was Frankart. Frankart was based in New York, the design-Mecca of the United States and all of their lamps are of white metal with an applied patina. Another American maker known for their nude lamps and ashtrays was NuArt and their designs bear a remarkable similarity to Frankart. The clean, crisp geometric lamps of this period normally had cloth or parchment shades. While almost without exception, the figural nude lamps used interesting frosted, etched or gaudy glass domes/balls and cylinders to create the mood and/or exposed chandelier bulbs. Lamp

Some lamps were of porcelain, ceramic, plaster and wood. Many famous potters designed modern, cubist, stepped bases with enamel, red, black and the famous art deco chartreuse green.

Another famous development was etched or illuminated plaques or figure lamps, with concealed light from below to create a three dimensional effect also took off and became a favourite. Some believe that this idea was inadvertently the brainchild of Lalique who had used lighted pieces to display his glass to the best effect.

Wall sconces were very popular in both residential and commercial design, because they incorporated and enhanced the architectural details, casting beautiful light on strategically placed object d'art and design details.

Lighting design became an integral part of residential and commercial design. Theatres, cinemas, hotels, apartments, personal residences, and even factories started popping up that were designed with geometric, clean lines and forms, embracing this new sensibility. The lighting became as much a part of the building as the building. Architecture also plays a part in the lighting scheme. Domes and ceilings act as reflectors and the planes and coronas create patterns of bright light and dark shadows. Concealed light globes are placed in geometric patterns in walls and ceiling beams or set in square, triangular or rectangular boxes. Small wall lights are often set within the wall to produce a gay and festive effect of stars. Chandeliers were designed to suggest fountains and jets of water... (Kathleen McClinton) which all became part of the drama, allure and extravagance.

Nude Lamp As with all of the art deco designs of the time, a strategically placed bronze or marble nude lamp will go with your contemporary furniture, as well as arts & crafts, nouveau or victorian. A stunning deco chandelier is just as beautiful in your living room as it would be in the kitchen, powder room or dinning room. A few well-placed wall sconces will do wonders to an otherwise dark wall or accent a fireplace.

Art deco is widely being reproduced and copies are showing up everywhere. Some manufacturers openly admit to producing and selling reproductions, while other's try to pass the new pieces off as old. It's important to be able to recognize old from new. The tell tale signs are weight, detail, wear and wiring.

The authentic art deco pieces will normally have weight to them because of the materials that were used, such as bronze, pewter, brass and spelter, as well as heavier molded glass. The newer pieces are generally made en-mass and are made from aluminium or some other light weight and easy to mass produce material. The glass usually is void of weight and lacks sharp details.

The true art deco pieces also have very fine, crisp details. I suggest always looking at the face if you can or ask for additional photos of the face, hands and feet if buying on-line. In the good pieces the lady will normally have a lovely face, not just pretty, but her features will be well defined. Modern makers when using old moulds, typically can't the clean, deep and detailed lines.

When we are talking about pieces that are close to 80+ years old, it is guaranteed that there will be wear of some form or other. These lamps were moved around from table-to-table, room-to-room and were taken from home-to-home. There is going to be some wear on the base and possibly some loss to the patina. None of this is a detriment to the piece, is normal and expected. What's more, if there is no wear, it is likely to be a new piece and you must ask the question and ask for a guarantee of age and authenticity.

Feel free to email your questions to Andrea Kollo Please understand that I will not be able to do appraisals.

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