AD
1938

Machine Age and Art Deco

This powerful Art Deco poster, painted in 1938, is perhaps Ragan’s most famous. “Travel by Train,” a great book, which surveys 80 years of train advertising art, describes it better than I can:

“Significant in subject, setting and style, this work depicts the 20th Century Limited, the nation’s foremost passenger train… Set along the Hudson River… the image focuses on the locomotive’s hallmark aluminum fin (meant to recall a Roman Centurion’s helmet) while deliberately masking mechanical details in shadow.”

Art Deco came along at a time when the world was in love with progress and technology. Beauty was not an attempt to capture an organic form, but to capture a sense of progress, technology, motion, the future, and a better tomorrow.

I write in another part of this site that we are seeing a new Art Nouveau (perhaps, Art Nouveau Nouveau?) emerge around us as designers try to harmonize their work with nature. We are also seeing a new Art Deco, or at least the spirit of Art Deco. The iPhone is a Deco masterpiece in its own right: sleek, modern, futuristic, minimalist.

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