The Art Deco style of the 1920s and ’30s pervaded design, from the Chrysler Building in Manhattan to the Grand Rex in Paris, but it wasn’t always on such a large scale. With increased mass production, everyday objects were also being marketed in the Machine Age aesthetic, including jewelry, watches, pocket mirrors, cameras, razors, and lamps.
And then there were the lighters and cigarette cases to accessorize the newly fashionable toxic pastime of smoking. Before the Jazz Age, women smoking in public were vilified, but gradually the practice became acceptable, especially with advertising promoting it as glamorous. To complete the affectation, men and women could buy cases decorated with geometric designs in enamel, eggshell, and lacquer, as well as portable lighters, a relatively recent innovation.
Art Deco Collectibles: Fashionable Objects from the Jazz Age by collectors Rodney and Diana Capstick-Dale, recently released by Thames & Hudson, devotes a whole chapter in its visual exploration of Art Deco design to the cases and lighters, as on this small scale, the graphic pop of the era was made accessible beyond the luxury class.
“As the demand for smoking accessories grew, the manufacturers, many of whom had previously produced a variety of ‘fancy goods,’ began making cigarette cases and lighters, as well as ladies’ compacts and other cosmetics accessories,” the Capstick-Dales write. They add that before the 1920s and ’30s, “men’s jewelry had previously been limited to watches, cufflinks, and tie pins, and there was soon a great demand for the newly essential smoking accoutrements.”
Art Deco Collectibles has over 350 illustrations, demonstrating the breadth of the functional art being made in Europe and the United States. The Wall Street Crash of 1929 put a damper on some of the more lavish goods, yet through the new austerity emerged streamlining, which industrial designers like Raymond Loewy experimented with in middle class-aimed mass production, whether a sewing machine or a barbecue grill.
The authors don’t get into much of the social history that caused the Art Deco lighter to be such a popular accessory, but the sharp images in the book show the allure of these objects. Back in 2014 the Harvey Cushing/John Hay Whitney Medical Library at Yale University held an exhibition called Selling Smoke (which you can still explore online) about the shift of advertising over the 20th century. Around the time you could buy a lighter with as many tiered angles as Rockefeller Center, ads were featuring doctors giving their professional approval, or a puffing penguin chirping “Save Your Throat!” while tossing a life preserver. It wasn’t until the 1960s that the anti-smoking movement really took off, but in these Art Deco artifacts you can get an idea of the mystique being promoted in the early decades of the 20th century.
Art Deco Collectibles: Fashionable Objets from the Jazz Age by Rodney and Diana Capstick-Dale is out now from Thames & Hudson.
This week, missed signs of previous life on Mars, the appeal of forged art, and why are blue whales singing in lower octaves?
All the Beauty and the Bloodshed forcefully posits multiple parallels between the world Nan Goldin grew up in and the one she fights in today.
The latest episode of this documentary series on PBS explores the meaning of home through handmade objects, hand built homes, and the artists who create them.
Your list of must-see, fun, insightful, and very Los Angeles art events this month, including Bob Thompson, Aimee Goguen, Uta Barth, the Transcendental Painting Group, and more.
There is the singular artist and then there is the more exclusive club that has only one member. Harvey belongs to the latter.
Rhode Island School of Design opens registration for its residential summer Pre-College program and year-round online intensive Advanced Program Online.
The artists say the Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma must sever ties with Poju Zabludowicz, whose wealth comes in part from Israeli defense contracting.
Vanessa Albury, whose eco-friendly ceramic sculptures help revive filter-feeder populations, is raising funds to complete her first film about the project.
Hrag Vartanian, Hyperallergic’s editor-in-chief, is one of the guest jurors reviewing applications for the two-month residency in Utica, New York.
An archeological exploration of the amphitheater’s sewers and water systems uncovered remnants of meat, vegetables, olives, nuts, and yes, pizza.
At this year’s show, I reflected on the lack of bilingual materials, the absurdity of art-fair gimmick, and the workers who make it all possible.
Hear a band of improvisers led by Rajna Swaminathan and a performance of Morton Feldman’s “For John Cage” in programs inspired by the exhibition, “New York: 1962-1964.”
Your list of must-see, fun, insightful, and very New York art events this month, including art made during the first stock market crash, a homage to feline friends, and the 10-year anniversary of a crucial public art initiative.
Astrid Dick was told that she could not paint stripes because Sean Scully and Frank Stella have done so before her, a patently foolish statement.