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Author: John Potvin

Richly illustrated with over 110 colour and black and white images, the book productively contests the supposedly exclusive feminine aspect of the style moderne (art deco). It explores how alternative, parallel and overlapping experiences and expressions of decorative modernism, nationalism, gender and sexuality in the heady years surrounding World War I converge in the protean figure of the deco dandy. As such, the book significantly departs from and corrects the assumptions and biases that have dominated scholarship on and popular perceptions of art deco. The book outlines how designed products and representations of and for the dandy both existed within and outwith normative expectations of gender and sexuality complicating men’s relationship to consumer culture more broadly and the moderne more specifically. Through a sustained focus on the figure of the dandy, the book offers a broader view of art deco by claiming a greater place for the male body and masculinity in this history than has been given to date. The mass appeal of the dandy in the 1920s was a way to redeploy an iconic, popular and well-known typology as a means to stimulate national industries, to engender a desire for all things made in France. Important, essential and productive moments in the history of the cultural life of Paris presented in the book are instructive of the changing role performed by consumerism, masculinity, design history and national identity.

Author: John Potvin

This book carefully considers the myriad and complex relationships between queer male masculinity and interior design, material culture and aesthetics in Britain between 1885 and 1957 - that is bachelors of a different sort - through rich, well-chosen case studies. It pays close attention to particular homes and domestic interiors of Lord Ronald Gower, Alfred Taylor, Oscar Wilde, Charles Shannon and Charles Ricketts, Edward Perry Warren and John Marshall, Sir Cedric Morris and Arthur Lett-Haines, Noel Coward and Cecil Beaton. The book underscores the discursive history and conceptual parameters of the bachelor as these collided with queer sexualities through social and cultural perceptions. It focuses on the seven deadly sins of the modern bachelor: queerness, idolatry, decadence, askesis, decoration, glamour, and finally, artifice. The seven deadly sins of the modern bachelor comprise a contested site freighted with contradiction, vacillating between and revealing the fraught and distinctly queer twining of shame and resistance. Together the furniture and collections that filled Gower's Windsor home compel us to search out the narratives that bric-a-brac at once enliven and expose well beyond the shadows of the endless and meaningless accumulation that late Victorians were said to been have afflicted by.

John Potvin

The chapter identifies and establishes the deco dandy, that hybrid, ambivalent and ambiguous creature that only existed for a brief time in Paris following the war. The figure was also capitalised as a key character for the reconstruction of France’s alleged cultural supremacy. Already under duress, France’s exports, namely its luxury industries, came under threat from foreign sources. Menswear and satellite design fields were targeted, the chapter suggests, to alter the course of action, to expand the terrain of sorts, to compete in a field France was not yet well known for. The figure of the dandy was reoriented to lead the charge. The conjuncture of the style moderne and masculinity is explored by remaining sensitive to those gestures that hint at the contours of the deco dandy’s ever-evolving lifestyle modernism. Ambiguous and ambivalent in his position as both the subject and object of consumption, he was at once decorative and masculine, and displayed effeminate contours despite his athletic prowess. Endemic to the deco dandy’s allure and success are two key concepts: the ensemble and Einfühlung. Together, the force of these two concepts facilitated, empowered and reinforced the potentialities of the deco dandy’s lifestyle modernism.

in Deco Dandy
John Potvin

This chapter singles out the queer, melancholic representations of the dandy that expressionist painter Nils Dardel (1888–1943) produced. To focus on Dardel’s dandy is to explore how a languid, ephebic, brightly attired deco dandy served as a site of pleasure and desire as much as a gendered performance of melancholia that in turn uncovers cultural needs for and national anxieties centred around reintegration and aggregation. This chapter attempts two distinct and seemingly unrelated goals: the first is to examine Dardel’s melancholic representations of the dandy to analyse the figure’s psycho-sexual characterisation; the second is to move forward in time to explore the lengthy processes of de-sexualisation, national canonisation and historiographical repetition and assimilation that have taken place since the painter’s death.

in Deco Dandy
John Potvin

This chapter explores, to borrow from Marcel Mauss, ‘the techniques of the body’, specifically the different ways male bodies suggested silhouettes through movement and crystalised the debates that raged around masculinity (re)establishing the iconic pairing of ephebic and virile types reproduced extensively in various media. In their own unique ways, the two types represented the divergence of the art deco aesthetic not as mere rivals but as integral to post-war consumerist rehabilitation. Through a sustained discussion of effeminacy, muscles and physicality in selective examples, the chapter interrogates the complicated and often fraught relationship between athletics/aesthetics and effeminacy/muscularity as expressions of a tension, overlap, contradistinction and synthesis wherein the post-war cultures of decorative masculinity resided and flourished. The entry point is purposefully varied: tailored fashion and form, the decorative gestures of boxing and physique culture, the rhythmic acting of Jaque Catelain and, finally, the exotic poses plastiques of ballet dancer Jean Börlin. Catelain and Börlin were protean queer celebrity figures whose identities vacillated between effeminacy and physical prowess. The chapter also challenges the effeminophobia that remains endemic to the historiography of the period and compels us to rethink the steadfast conceptualisation of masculinity as either only virile or only effeminate.

in Deco Dandy
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John Potvin
in Deco Dandy
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John Potvin

By exploring the notional interior of the deco dandy, this chapter challenges the extant scholarship that has long positioned the female consumer and woman decorator as the exclusive arbiters of national, industrial and design debates in the post-war period. The point of entry here is Monsieur magazine, interrogated and situated within the larger cultural history of interior design that emerged prior to and after the war, when a crusade for purism by modernists like Swiss-born architect Le Corbusier was being waged leading up to the Exposition des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes of 1925. By examining selective and unique case studies the chapter also explores interior spaces associated with actor Jaque Catelain and modern ballet dancer Jean Börlin and the impact physique culture was having on the development of the French interior. Catelain and Börlin were not simply performers in the literal sense, but cultural forces both celebrated and feared that help us to think through the ways cinema and dance in general, and their bodies in particular, might be used to explore other forms of cultural production, namely interior design and furniture.

in Deco Dandy
John Potvin

The chapter focuses largely on Monsieur magazine, which established itself as an important discursive and visual engine of dissemination for knowledge of men’s fashion as well as a graphic cipher of larger concerns for masculinity’s role in developing elegance as part of the civilising process. Like much of the book, the material explored throughout the chapter teeters between the bespoke aspects of men’s tailoring and the burgeoning and expanding ready-to-wear industry, between the unique and the mass-produced, between tradition and industrial progress, between object, text and image. It focuses its lens on art, fashion and cultural criticism to explore the way Monsieur set out to establish the cultural and sartorial parameters of the deco dandy, a figure seen as the answer to France’s post-war crisis in civilisation.

in Deco Dandy
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John Potvin

The chapter boasts being the first attempt at analysing the role played by men’s fashion not only at the grand 1925 Exposition des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes as well as at subsequent French expositions abroad, but also as a luxury object which actively participated in the efforts of a post-war civilising mission. The chapter then explores the ways in which men’s fashion was staged, advertised and discursively constructed at art deco’s most anticipated and celebrated exposition and the new directions it quietly promised in establishing a French sense of post-war rational, industrial luxury in France and abroad. The chapter’s ambition to expand the cultural history of post-war commodity culture is premised on the shifting landscape leading up to and as a result of the 1925 Exposition, as well as what is seen as a pivotal and culminating moment on which all this hangs, the much neglected Exposition de France à Athènes which took place three short years later in 1928 and its follow-up Exposition de France au Caire in 1929.

in Deco Dandy
The seven deadly sins of the modern bachelor
John Potvin

This chapter charts a man's fraught and tense place within the home and underscores the discursive history and conceptual parameters of the bachelor as these collided with queer sexualities through social and cultural perceptions. It aims to align the fraught terrain (sexual and otherwise) of the queer bachelor, that is, bachelors of a different sort, with ideals of material culture and the domestic realm. The chapter elucidates what the author identify as the seven deadly sins of the modern bachelor, terms which simultaneously mark sites of derision and shame and sources of empowerment and liberation, antagonistic forces in the experience and expressions of embodiment. The seven deadly sins (lust, envy, gluttony, greed, wrath, pride and sloth), as they were conceived in early Christendom, are seen as the origins of all other sin. The chapter explores the first and deadliest of sins, queerness.

in Bachelors of a different sort