Donald Deskey


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Deskey did much to help shape the Streamlined Modern style that became widespread in 1920s and 1930s USA. After a period studying architecture at the University of California and painting at the Art Students League in New York City and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and a period working at an advertising agency, he travelled to Paris in 1923 where he studied painting and worked as a graphic designer. Deskey was particularly influenced by the 1925 Paris Exposition des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels and, after his return to New York in 1926, he did much to popularize in the United States what became known later as the Art Deco style. This was achieved by blending progressive European trends in the decorative arts with first‐hand experience of the emerging field of industrial design. In 1926 he began as an industrial design consultant and worked on a variety of furniture, furnishings, and textiles for the Deskey‐Vollmer Company (1927–31), which he founded with Philip Vollmer. He also designed window displays for a number of the leading department stores on Fifth Avenue, New York. His designs were characterized by a use of abstract, geometric patterns, and new materials such as chromium plate (See Chrome), Bakelite, and aluminium. From the late 1920s he designed interiors for a number of wealthy clients, including John D. Rockefeller (1929–31). With Lee Simonson and Kem Weber he co‐founded the American Union of Decorative Artists and Craftsmen (AUDAC) in 1928, seeking to bring together artists and designers to promote modern American design. His reputation was such that he won the competition to design the interiors of Radio City Music Hall in the Rockefeller Center, New York, in 1932–3. Deskey's designs, particularly for furniture and lighting, showed his indebtedness to French decorative arts. He was awarded a Grand Prix and Gold Medal at the 1937 Exposition Universelle in Paris and also worked on a number of displays at the New York World's Fair of 1939. He established his own design consultancy, Donald Deskey Associates, in 1946 and remained active until 1970, working on large corporate accounts such as Proctor & Gamble.

Subjects: Decorative Arts, Furniture, and Industrial Design — Industrial and Commercial Art.

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