Books: Epoch of Creative Artistry; Decorative Arts and Architecture of the 1920s by Roberto Papini, Thames & Hudson, Pounds 75/modernism in American Silver - 20th Century Design by Jewel Stern, Yale, Pounds 40. Reviewed by Richard Edmonds
Byline: Reviewed by Richard Edmonds
The parties in post-First World War Paris were legendary. Paris was a crucible where new ideas in design and fine art were created and abandoned overnight.
It was a time when the geniuses of the Twenties were to be found in sidewalk cafes or in the gilded salons of the rich and famous or those of the newly-arrived and wealthy, social climbers anxious to acquire the reputation of connoisseurs.
It was a period of scandal and triumph and I am indebted to Charles A Riley's The Jazz Age in France (reviewed some time ago in these pages) for much background detail and information.
But you only have to look at the furniture in Europe at the time, chairs, tables, sideboards, murals, screens, all of them rich with exotic inlay supporting beautiful table glass or silver, the luxuries which new money could bring into any well-heeled domestic interior.
While outside, of course, a new streamlined Bugatti would be parked in the street to get you back home in the dawn from the latest party.
France was also a magnet for brash young American writers, composers, poets and artists who produced their greatest work in an atmosphere of social camaraderie and avant-garde libertarianism.
Josephine Baker shimmied in the hot spotlight at the Folies BergAre.
She was black, she was beautiful and she was starkers, except for a bunch of bananas in a strategic position.
Meanwhile, in dozens of private clubs, handsome rent boys with black lacquered hair and fixed smiles danced the tango with infatuated older women.
But it was a time when iconic monuments to the age were appearing, all of them bearing witness to this exhilarating period - one of the great epochs of artistic creativity.
Among the novelists, ex-patriot American socialite Scott Fitzgerald wrote The Great Gatsby , Gertrude Stein Fractured Language while George Balanchine choreographed a starkly beautiful ballet called Apollo set to a score by Stravinsky.
Picasso was never anything less than a creative meteor whose ideas appeared in huge canvases and small sketches, stage design, ceramics and other forms of the decorative arts which liberated his genius.
During the 80 years that have passed since those heady days, the virtues and aesthetics of 20th-century design have been explored, catalogued and written about in dozens of learned papers and glossy books. …