Vanda Boulton jazz jar Copyrighted image Credit: Used with permission

Deco: The art of glamour, a lavish Open University/BBC special for BBC ONE, tells the dynamic story of one of the most sumptuous art themes the world has known.

This is the first Open University programme to be shown on BBC ONE. Narrated by Jerry Hall, herself an Open University student, the programme tells a story that takes in fashion, film, photography, music and architecture, as it tracks the development of Art Deco – from its Roaring Twenties beginning in Paris to a high-spirited zenith that was swiftly halted by the outbreak of the Second World War.

As the programme shows, the movement brought new levels of excitement to the pleasure palaces – the hotels, cocktail bars, cinemas and ocean liners – that sprang up in the fast-changing modern world of the 1920s. Art Deco was a liberating force – a necessary antidote to the horrors of the First World War. The style was a global phenomenon that reached beyond the boundaries of the fine and decorative arts – evolving from a luxurious style for the rich and famous into a style dream for the masses.

The film begins in Paris where, during its Jazz Age, the creative energy of the city fed the search for a new and vibrant style after the demise of Art Nouveau. By the mid-1920s, Art Deco had reached a global audience thanks, in part, to the Paris exhibition of 1925 when the fusion of art and shopping brought the movement to the everyday consumer.

The exotic French Deco designs of the Atlantic-going Normandie earned it the tag of “the greatest liner ever built”. The liner was a fusion of technology and taste, helping to bring the style to America. As improvements in construction technology prompted the popularity of skyscrapers, the programme moves on to the iconic Chrysler Building in New York, where Deco provided the style to adorn it.

Deco: The Art of Glamour also explores the movement’s last great development; streamlining, which was epitomised in the Cadillac. As a symbol of progress and technological development, it had wide-ranging effects and came to represent the vibrancy and mass appeal of American culture worldwide by the late 1930s. The programme also features footage from the Maharaja’s Palace in Jodphur, said to be the finest example of Art Deco left in the world.

The programme ends as the movement’s frivolity and playfulness were cut short by the outbreak of the Second World War, when austerity and sobriety became the watch-words.

Art of Glamour in more depth: