Home Magazine 15 Iconic Art Deco Artworks

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Art Deco is a very distinctive visual style that was at its peak during the 1920s and 1930s. Clean, geometric and streamlined forms, bold, bright colours, and a touch of sophistication and glamour make it an iconic and captivating style, whose influence is still present today.

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Art Deco represented the glamour, the luxury, and the strong faith in technological progress that permeated the years after World War I. An extremely varied movement, it touched many disciplines from graphic art to set design and costumes, from fashion and jewellery to sculpture and architecture. Art Deco is a celebration of the machine age, of technological and social progress, and of capitalism.

Read here all your need to now about Art Deco.

So, here is a list of 15 iconic Art Deco artworks, paintings, illustrations and sculptures.

15 Art Deco Artworks

1. Autoportrait (Tamara in a Green Bugatti) by Tamara De Lempicka, 1929

One of the best-known Art Deco paintings is “Autoportrait (Tamara in a Green Bugatti)” 1929 by Polish artist Tamara De Lempicka. The piece was commissioned by Die Dame, a German fashion magazine, as a celebration of women’s independence and strength. At the time, Tamara de Lempicka was famous for her art deco portraits of wealthy people and aristocrats. The work depicts De Lempicka driving a green Bugatti racing car. She is wearing leather gloves, a matching helmet, and a whitish-grey scarf wrapped around the neck. The scarf seems to move due to the strong wind caused by the moving car. De Lempicka portrayed herself as a powerful and independent woman, the personification of wealth and inaccessibility; the painting became, in fact, an icon. The geometric composition is clearly influenced by Cubism. Her style is crisp and elegant, she uses clean and precise lines, which are common features of the streamlined Art Deco style. The result is a tasteful, alluring artwork that became an icon of modern, liberated women. 

Autoportrait (Tamara in a Green Bugatti) by Tamara De Lempicka, 1929. Courtesy of S&P Gallery


Georges Lepape was a famous Art Deco designer and painter. Like many other Art Deco artists, his body of work is influenced by aesthetics and tastes from all over the world, especially by Japanese art, Persian miniatures and Ballet Russes. “Le miroir rouge”, 1913 is an Art Deco portrait of a Japanese woman that seems to resemble the Japanese Noh mask. Few clear lines and colours create the image of this elegant, wealthy woman looking at the mirror with matching pink fingernails and lipstick, three rings and earrings. The curvilinear style, the sophistication, the choice of the subject are all elements of the Art Deco style.

Le miroir rouge / The Red Mirror, Georges Lepape, 1913, Courtesy of Sylvan Cole Gallery


3. Victoire by René Lalique, 1928

Victorie" is a car glass mascot by the French designer René Lalique that encapsulates well the essence of Art Deco. It represents a female figure facing a strong wind, the hair behind her resembles a wing, and her face is jutting forward. The entire sculpture embodies the exciting sensation of speed: the perfect celebration of technological innovation and of the machine age, which was one of the main themes of Art Deco style. In fact, very often Art Deco artists and designers paid their homage to social and technological processes through their works. Furthermore, “Victorie" is at the same time a fine art sculptural object and a functional luxurious product. The choice of using glass, a particularly fragile material, reinforces the idea of the object as a decadent and rare purchase, which only few wealthy people could afford.

Victoire, René Lalique, 1928. Via: V&A Museum


Léon Baskt is one of the most important costume designers of the first decades of the 1900s. His work greatly influenced the early Art Deco aesthetics. In "Costume design for the ballet The Firebird '' (1913) the vibrant colours, the geometrical form, the “exotic” imagery, and the rich and bold composition are clear Art Deco elements. The artwork depicts a female dancer with an elaborate yellow costume, with decorative motifs and stylised figures, such as birds and flowers. 

Costume for the Firebird, Léon Bakst, 1913. Courtesy of MOMA


Jose Maria Sert was commissioned by the Rockafeller family to paint a mural for the lobby of their center to replace the one made a few years before by Diego Riviera. The painting is a perfect exemplification of Art Deco’s combination of classical and modern. On the one hand, the mural depicts classical painting subjects, such as allegories, muses. On the other, it features many historical American figures, celebrating US values and individuals that enabled modern American life and technological progress. Like most Art Deco paintings, “America Progress” needed to be, by definition, decorative and designed to function well with the environment around it, especially with the architecture and the design. Another distinctive and common element of Art Deco detectable in the mural is the way in which bodies were portrayed: blocky figures, muscular bodies and a focus on the angular were preferred to sensuous curves.


American Progress, Jose Maria Sert, 1937. Courtesy of Ingfbruno


6. Young Lady With Gloves Artist by Tamara de Lempicka, 1930

“Young Lady With Gloves” is an Art Deco portrait by Tamara de Lempicka. The subject of the painting is a fashionable wealthy woman wearing a silky green dress, white matching gloves and hat, and red lipstick. It is possible to recognise many elements typical of Art Deco style: the bold bright colours, the clean lines, the angular style, and the tasteful sensuality of the female figure portrayed. The dress clings reveal the curves of the silhouette, her abdomen and breasts. When the portrait was first exhibited, it even sparked controversy for its sexually provocative nature. On the other hand, the sharpened linearity, the interplay of light and shadow, and the geometric planes of green fabric are clearly an influence of Cubism on the Art Deco painting style.

Young Lady With Gloves Artist, Tamara de Lempicka, 1930. Courtesy of Kooness


This preparation study shows part of one of the greatest Art Deco works: a mural design for the Grand Salon of SS Normandie, one of the most luxurious ocean liners. The entire mural consisted in four-hundred square metres of glass decoration. Jean Dupas, who was at the time one of the most famous and fashionable designers, created a mirror-like brilliance using a technique called “verse églomisé”. The technique consisted in painting on the reverse of plate-glass panels in black and in other various pastel colours; then using gold and silver on top of the paint; and finally affixing a canvas in the back. The result was a majestical, luxurious composition, one of the greatest examples of French Art Deco taste.  


Study from the Chariot of Poseidon Mural for the SS Normandie, Jean Dupas, 1935. Courtesy of: Stephen Ongpin Fine Art


Normandie” is one of the most iconic posters of Cassandre, the pioneer of modern graphic design. The poster advertises the Normandie ocean liner, a showcase of French Art Deco design and technological progress. It depicts the frontal view of the liner: the simplicity and symmetry of the looming hull are able to convey the impressive dimension as well as the streamlined elegance of the Normandie. 

Normandie, Cassandre, 1935. Courtesy of: 2021 Mouron AM.Cassandre


L’entracte” is another Art Deco portrait by Georges Lepape. It depicts a woman standing in a theatre during the “entracte”, offering a glimpse into the glamorous lifestyle of the high society. The fluid lines as well as the bold and bright colours characterise the composition. 

L’Entracte, Georges Lepape, 1912.


Considered the father of Art Deco, Romain de Ritoff, aka Erté, was a Russian-French artist, who worked as artist and designer in different fields, including interior decor, set design, costume, fashion, and graphic arts. Of particular interest is his production of illustrations for magazine’s covers. Between 1915 and 1937, he designed more than 200 covers for Harper’s Bazaar. In the cover of the February 1921 issue, a mysterious female figure is portrayed with a large and richly decorated dress. The illustration is elegant and curvilinear, capturing perfectly Art Deco’s style. The choice of a bright, rich red as background contrasts with the predominantly black and white illustration. The artist drew inspiration from the imagery of Persian miniatures as well as from Chinese and Japanese art. 

Harper’s Bazaar February Cover, Romain de Tirtoff, 192.


Another iconic Art Deco portrait by Tamara de Lempicka is “Portrait of Ira Perrot”, 1930. Ira Perrot was a close friend and lover of Tamara. In this portrait, the artist captured her lover dressed in a clinging white satin dress, leaning against the right edge of the painting. Ira is holding a bouquet of white lilies, a symbol of purity and love. Red matching lipstick and fingernails as well a floaty red shawl contrast the overall whiteness and highlight the erotic alluring of the picture. The fractured planes of the different fabrics, the contrast of light and shadow in her face reveal a clear influence of the Cubism movement, while the sensuality, the high contrast colours and angular style embody the Art Deco aesthetic.

Portrait of Ira Perrot, Tamara de Lempicka, 1930. Courtesy of Kooness


Tipsy” is an Art Deco portrait by the japanese artist Kobayakawa Kiyoshi. He depicts a modern woman with red lipstick, tipsy eyes, a cigarette in her fingers and a cocktail in front of her. The bold dark red in the background contrasts with the pale of her skin. The painting shows the lifestyle of an independent woman, enjoying the nightlife. 

Tipsy, Kobayakawa Kiyoshi, 1930.


In “Nord Express”, with clean and simple shapes, Cassandre represents the modernism of the train. The viewer is positioned below the tracks; they need to look up to admire the train, emphasising its power and speed. The sleek, geometric and stylised style and the celebration of the machine age of Art Deco are observed in Cassandre’s work. 

Nord Express, Cassandre, 1927, Courtesy of & TM. MOURON - AM.CASSANDRE


Another iconic illustration by Erté is “Symphony in Black”. It portrays a graceful, slender woman who is holding a black dog on leash. The figure is somewhat stylised, the slender figure is in contrast with the extravagant, thick and feathery overcoat and headdress. What stands out is the natural confidence of the woman. “Symphony in Black” encapsulates well the glamour and sophistication of Art Deco paintings. 

Symphony, Black by Erté, 1967. Courtesy of Art Commerce


This elaborate stage design was created by Leon Bakst for Scheherazade. The bright and vivid colours, the rich and bold composition had a great impact on the development of the Art Deco’s aesthetic.  

Set Design for Scheherazade, Leon Bakst, 1910


These 15 artworks clearly illustrate how Art Deco artists approached key themes such as modernity and luxury with their characteristic style. The glamour found in these artifacts not only offers a glimpse into an hopeful moment in history, but can still be found in modern Art Deco’s works. Modern Art Deco, with its captivating and elegant design, allows us to think that glamour and hope might not be ephemeral after all. 

Cover image: Young Lady With Gloves Artist, Tamara de Lempicka, 1930. Courtesy of Kooness

Written by Francesca Allievi

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