Decorative arts—the furniture, housewares, and ornamentation that people use in the places where they live—can tell you a lot about a culture and what its people hold most dear. This volume looks at cultures, design styles, and trends around the globe, from ancient times to the present. Decorative art, as opposed to fine art, has a purpose outside of simply be- ing beautiful. It can be furniture, pottery, tools, blankets, items to use in religious services, or glasses and vases, to name just a few examples. It can be primitive or elaborately adorned, large or tiny, heavy or lightweight, expensive or affordable. The only thing that decorative art is not, is ordinary. Decorative art involves more than just creating useful items that are both attractive and functional. It offers us a peek into the history, the raw materials available, and the tools used by a particular culture. Some decorative art forms remain today; others, such as the majority of the silver objects crafted by the Inca, have been lost to history. Some have become iconic, such as Grecian urns or Chinese ceramics; others offer commentary on current events of the day, such as the mid-twentieth-century Sputnik light fixtures. As we explore the many different types of decorative art from six continents, we’ll track the evolution of skills like wood carving and metalsmithing as civilizations became more advanced. We’ll see the influence of religion and war on the type of decorative art objects a society creates. We’ll also identify the leading pioneers in different decorative art movements, from ancient Egypt to contemporary America. We invite you to join us on this journey. One thing we’ll guarantee: You’ll never look at your sofa, mixing bowl, silverware, or rugs the same way again.
Facing page : Jade lion from Vietnam; Australian aboriginal didgeridoos; Peruvian textiles; tilework at the Shah Mosque in Iran; Art Nouveau subway entrance in Paris, France; Barcelona chairs by Ludwig Mies van de Rohe and Lilly Reich. ( clockwise from top left )
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