Preview: All Jazzed Up About the 1920s–The Great Gatsby at the Century Guild

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It may not be the art you’re used to us covering at CARTWHEEL, but I couldn’t pass up the invitation from the Century Guild for a solo preview of Academy Award-winning designer Catherine Martin‘s costumes and sketches for The Great Gatsby, directed by Baz Luhrmann.  Martin created the sketches, which are printed on watercolor paper, using a combination of hand drawing  and digital art. The classical portraits of Tom and Daisy Buchanan were painted specifically for the film, referencing the styles of the time period.

The Jaz Age–that period post-World War 1, and pre-Great Depression  depicted in F. Scott Ftzgerald’s novel (and the five filmed versions)–packed an undeniable social wallop as the world tried to regain its balance after world, bloodshed, revolutions, and genocide.  Increased freedom for women was signalled by shorter hair and shorter dresses; music shifted signatures; and art, well art and design, already affected by the pre-War modernists, took a radical shift from classicism and romanticism with Art Deco.

Characterized by symmetry, geometric shapes, and clean lines, Art Deco represented hope and modernity; the belief the horrors of war were over, and a new era of rationalism and beauty was before us; that the war had been the hideous death throes of an old aeon, and now a era of progress was ahead. (We know a bit better now!).

Fitzgerald’s book, set in in 1922, shows the clash of the old with the brash new, as America experienced a boom period. Lurhmann’s film is full of Art Deco, the production and costumes designed by longtime collaborator Catherine Martin (who is now creating interior design collections and components including rugs, furniture, wall coverings and paint). Along with a preview of Martins costumes we saw some of the beautiful original posters from the 1910s and 20s, designed as advertising for theatrical and dance events.

Century Guild’s Thomas Negovan explained to me that the term “rip-off artist” actually comes from that time period–people would follow around the crews wheat-pasting up, for example, posters by Toulouse Lautrec, and rip them off the wall while still wet to save  for their beauty.  That beauty is quite coveted nowadays. Designer Karl Lagerfeld is one collector of posters from that time period, filling his New York apartment with rare posters.  Original European posters from the time period  play nicely off the created materials for The Great Gatsby,  underscoring the film’s themes and the exhibition’s intent.

The Catherine Martin/Great Gatsby exhibition opens May 8th and runs through June 1st.

Century Guild
6150 W. Washington Blvd.
Culver City, CA 90232
Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays from noon to 8pm


This portrait of Tom Buchanan and the one of Daisy (top) were created for the film. Their traditional style and classical heaviness represent the old money and traditions of America.


Tom and Daisy.




Martin’s design for Daisy.


Jordan Baker is Nick Carraway’s love interest. An unscrupulous golfer, Fitzgerald named after two popular motor cars of the time, showing bother her modernity and that she is “fast.”


Red suits Myrtle, who is Tom Buchanan’s mistress.


Gatsby kept a scrapbook to remember his lost love, Daisy Fay. This version form Baz Luhrman’s film is on display at the Century Guild.


Walter Schnackenberg, poster for dance troupe, circa 1920


Walter Schnackenberg, poster for Deutsches Theatre in Munich, circa 1920


Alfonse Mucha


Vintage Italian concert poster.

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