Saturday, 1 December 2012

Curiosity Shop #11

 Moths to a Flame

In his blue gardens men and girls came and went like moths among the whisperings and the champagne and the stars.”  
F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

Evoking old world glamour, decadent garden parties and beautiful creatures shimmering like moths at dusk, F. Scott Fitzgerald really knew how to pen the style of an era the whose popularity has never waned. Through the swish of their damask, the softness of their velvet and the sparkle of their beaded gowns, the style of the Jazz Age is deliciously imagined in the description of his characters in The Great Gatsby. His novels call to mind the fashions of the Art Deco era - motor cars, the Charleston, the Manhattan, flappers and the geometric precision of Art Deco design - capturing the very spirit of the era. In this hedonistic post-war period it felt, especially in America, as if anything were possible.
If Gatsby’s words were to be illustrated, the Art Deco fashion illustrations of this epoch would be fitting.  More than just a sketch for clothing, they transport you to the dazzling Jazz Age where fashionable women take centre stage. These detailed drawings of the latest fashions are contextualized in gardens and interiors where the likes of Jay Gatsby himself might be found. The decadent and flamboyant atmosphere of this time is magically construed by the use of symbolic elements in the picture landscape. By including interior objects, tassled lamps, statues, splendid gardens, intricate bird cages, exotic birds, handsome men to dance with and women lounging nonchalantly on chaise longues, to name a few, they become portraits of an age as well as illustrations for the famous fashion designers such as Poiret.
The colours and composition draw your attention to the central focus – women’s dress. Turbans, long strings of sparkling beads, fabulous patterns, and backless couture are intricately drawn within a flat, two dimensional space. Outlined in black and peppered with Eastern images, the taste for Asia is present in the imagery as well implied by the outlines and the two dimensional style reminiscent of 19th century Japanese woodblock prints.
 Two of the most skilled illustrators of the era, Georges Lepape and George Barbier, produced the beautiful creations below. 

Let these Parisian artists seduce you into the 1920s and decade preceding with champagne, garden parties and twinkling stars...

So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.

Illustration by Georges Lepape, circa 1910, of a Paul Poiret design

Illustration for Nijinsky’s Scheherazade, by Georges Lepape, 1910

Fashion plate from Journal des Dames et des Modes (1912-1914). No. 46

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