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Art Deco 101 - Art Deco vs Art Nuveau

What is art deco? Lots of people get very confused between Art Deco and Art Nuveau, so they read Wikipedia and everything becomes as clear as mud.

I'm here to sort it out for you. By no means am I the foremost expert on anything, but I am a man with a blog, and I'm prepared to use it.

ART NUVEAU

- Designed by Artists
- Using pencils, ink, and paint
- Aided by compasses and drafting techniques
- For advertising and aesthetics
- (And yes, this list is grossly oversimplified)

I think of art nuveau as a scaffold of geometry superseded by naturalism.

ART DECO

- Designed by Architects
- Using drafting tools (t-squares, triangles, compasses, french curves)
- Informed by architectural theories
- For architecture
- Constructable by skilled labor
- (And yes, this list is grossly oversimplified)

I think of art deco as drafting taken to the level of art.

* The lists above are about focus, what was most important in the art form.

Does that make more sense to you? I hope that it does. Underneath art deco are solid drafting principals and geometric relationships. The rules of drafting create the underlying rules on which all art deco aesthetics are based. The designer must be able to create the blueprint, and then a craftsman must be able to take those blueprints and create an object. That means that the craftsman (who also has drafting training) must be able to sort out the relationships in the drawing.

In contrast, Art Nuveau lies closer to fine arts. Although the basis of the drawing may use geometric shapes and drafting techniques, the majority of the drawing is dominated by more natural, especially non-mathematical shapes. Plant motifs predominate. Lines vary in width, often flaring. The hard lines of modernity have been softened by beauty. Drawing Art Nuveau via drafting techniques is difficult and challenging. Craftsmen can construct object of Art Nuveau, but the object is more than the execution of the drawings. The artist can and will make adaptations to bring the final design to life.

Return to: Art Deco 101

Douglas Milewski is a fantasy writer who liked drafting class too much. In his recent artistic struggles to produce art deco for his own covers, he found no internet sites dedicated to the technical underpinnings of the art. Seeing a niche that needed filling, he has documented his hard learned experiences. He doesn't claim that he's right, and would very much appreciate it if someone more competent would save him from his own folly.

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