28 Apr
Thu / 2016

Inside the MFAH
Jazz Age Nightlife: “Sculpted in Steel” Meets “Deco Nights”

With the rise of cocktail culture in the 1920s, the stylish elite frequented cafés, cabarets, and speakeasies on nocturnal outings. The selection of decorative arts and costumes in Deco Nights: Evenings in the Jazz Age evokes this rich culture, sharing a visual dialogue with the urban nightlife represented by vehicles on view in Sculpted in Steel: Art Deco Automobiles and Motorcycles, 1929–1940.

Imagine a fashionable couple driving in the Delahaye 135M Competition Coupe to a jazz club for a night of dancing. The pair of evening shoes on view in Deco Nights—with their colorful, confetti-like stitched pattern of geometric shapes and stylized roses—would provide a striking accent to complement the mid-calf-length hemlines that were in fashion.

Delahaye, 135M Competition Coupe   I. Miller Shoe Company, for I. Magnin, Pair of Evening Shoes
Fig. 1, Delahaye, 135M Competition Coupe, 1936. Fig. 2, I. Miller Shoe Company, for I. Magnin, Pair of Evening Shoes, c. 1920s

Envision the occupants of the Avions Voisin Type C27 riding in style to a swanky nightclub. 

Avions Voisin, Type C27 Aérosport Coupe   Interior of Avions Voisin, Type C27 Aérosport Coupe
Fig. 3, Avions Voisin, Type C27 Aérosport Coupe. Fig. 4, Detail of the interior.

The automobile’s boldly patterned seat upholstery is in the same Modernist vein as the sleek cigarette case that easily fit into a man’s jacket pocket. With the Jazz Age trend of animated geometric prints, smoking accessories like this enameled case were meant to be seen—just as the vibrant design of the beaded purse, also on view in Deco Nights, is a statement-making evening accessory. 

Napier Company, Cigarette Case   Unknown German Manufacturer, Purse
Fig. 5, Napier Company, Cigarette Case.” Fig. 6, Unknown German Manufacturer, Purse.

Imagine an urbane group returning home for cocktails, after an evening at the theater, in the Packard Twelve Model 1106. The refined elegance of this luxury American automobile, with its distinctive chrome radiator grille, is matched by the chrome-plated cocktail set in Deco Nights. Inspired by the Manhattan skyscraper, a quintessentially American invention, the tray’s stepped profile emulates the contours of high-rise buildings. The cocktail shaker towers over the glasses in imitation of the New York skyline.

Bodywork built by LeBaron Incorporated, Packard Motor Car Company, Twelve Model 1106   Norman Bel Geddes, manufactured by Revere Copper and Brass Co., “Manhattan” Cocktail Set
Fig. 7, Packard Motor Car Company, Twelve Model 1106. Fig. 8, Norman Bel Geddes, “Manhattan” Cocktail Set.

Discover more connections between these two exhibitions: Visit “Sculpted in Steel” in the Beck Building through May 30, and “Deco Nights” in the Law Building through June 5.

Images: Fig. 1. Bodywork designed by Figoni & Falaschi, Delahaye, 135M Competition Coupe, 1936, the Patterson Collection. Image © 2008 Peter Harholdt. Fig. 2. I. Miller Shoe Company, for I. Magnin, Pair of Evening Shoes, c. 1920s, silk and leather, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Museum purchase funded by the Textile and Costume Institute in honor of Susanne Dawley. Fig. 3. Gabriel Voisin, Avions Voisin, Type C27 Aérosport Coupe, 1934, collection of Peter and Merle Mullin. Image © 2009 Peter Harholdt Fig. 4. Detail of Type C27 Aérosport Coupe’s interior. Image © 2009 Peter Harholdt Fig. 5. Napier Company, Cigarette Case, c. 1935–41, sterling silver, gilt, and enamel, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Museum purchase funded by Sheldon R. Erikson and T. William Porter at “One Great Night in November, 1998.” Fig. 6. Unknown German Manufacturer, Purse, c. 1929, beads, enamel, silk, and sterling silver, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, gift of Francesca Galloway. Fig. 7. Bodywork built by LeBaron Incorporated, Packard Motor Car Company, Twelve Model 1106, 1934, collection of Bob and Sandra Bahre. Image © 2008 Peter Harholdt. Fig. 8. Norman Bel Geddes, manufactured by Revere Copper and Brass Co., “Manhattan” Cocktail Set, designed 1934, chrome-plated brass, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, the American Institute of Architects, Houston Design Collection, Museum purchase funded by the American Institute of Architects, Houston; Glassman Shoemake Maldonado Architects; Haynes Whaley Associates, Inc.; Watkins Hamilton Ross Architects; Kirksey & Partners Architects; Powers Brown Architecture; Rey de la Reza; Lonnie Hoogeboom, AIA; Heights Venture Architects, LLP; Martha Murphree, Hon. AIA; Chris Hudson; Griesenbeck Architectural Products, Inc.; Mr. and Mrs. Daniel Searight; Martha Seng; John Hawkins; Dan Brents; Pam Vassallos; Palmer and Merry Schooley; and an anonymous donor.

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