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Art Deco and the Age of Jazz


Art Deco is the name given to the principal new style of the 1920s and '30s. The style came from France, and the Paris international exhibition of 1925 launched it on the world. Art Deco got its name only in the 1960s, from the words 'arts decoratifs' in the title of the exhibition. You can see the Art Deco style in the painting, architecture, film and photography of the period, as well as in the decorative arts.

Art Deco brought together a wide range of influences and you can see this clearly in British ceramics. Many are stylish and well produced; some are cheap and cheerful whilst others are plainly idiosyncratic. However they all manage to capture the mood of the period with great vitality and often humour.

Hundreds of factories in Britain were making interesting and innovative pots during the 1920s and '30s - an era sometimes known as the Age of Jazz.

Jar and cover

Jazz developed in the early twentieth century; its roots are embedded in American popular culture. From about 1919 American jazz bands were visiting Britain and taking the country by storm. The contemporary perception of jazz was as novel, exotic and modern, and it inspired new forms of decoration, including Continental and British ceramics.

The sources and varieties of Art Deco were so numerous that sometimes it seems to be not one style, but many. You can see a wide range of these influences on British Art Deco ceramics and many of them are represented in this exhibition.

Clarice Cliff may well have taken the inspiration for her wonderful Age of Jazz figures from some ceramic Jazz Musician figures, produced by the Parisian manufacturers Robj in 1925. Susie Cooper's coffee set, with geometric decoration, was possibly inspired by European avant-garde painting. Exotic influences from China and Ancient Egypt can be seen on pots by Clews and Carlton. Sunrays, lightning flashes and streamlining all capture the spirit of the 1920s and '30s.