This set of prints incorporates botanical imagery into innovative, elaborate, Art Nouveau designs, some as still life compositions, while others are highly stylized. Some also show designs for decorative arts objects, including vases, chandeliers, gates and furniture. In some cases, other images entwine with the plants, such as birds, snails, small reptiles, women and cherubic children. Some are rendered in deep, rich colors, sometimes with the addition of gold or silver, while others are in two tones, such as a light sepia combined with a greenish tone.
The sinuous lines and incorporation of naturalistic motifs are typical of Art Nouveau, though other Victorian stylistic influences are also at work, including Renaissance revival in the use of garlands of fruit, and Aesthetic Movement taste in the use of ferns, a wildly popular Victorian motif. While the prints are based on the work of various artists, most were apparently designed by Anton Seder, and bear his distinctive A.S. monogram, sometimes incorporated into the design.
Anton Seder, a painter from Munich, was the first director of the Ecole Supérieure des Arts Décoratifs (College of Decorative Arts), founded in 1890 by the city of Strasbourg as part of a plan for the artistic revival of the region. He remained as director until 1920 and also designed the decorative facade of the school’s building. Seder co-edited the magazine Das Kunstgewerbe in Elsass-Lothringen [The Arts and Crafts in Alsace-Lorraine]. Strasbourg had been ceded by France to Germany in 1871, and was returned to France in 1918. Therefore, the cultural environment was a mixture of French and German influences. His best known works are Die Pflanze in Kunst und Gewerbe [The Plant in Art and Trade] (Gerlach & Schenk, Vienna: 1890), which incorporated plants into decorative motifs, and Das Thier In Der Decorativen Kunst [Animals in Decorative Art] (Gerlach & Schenk, Vienna: 1896-98), similarly incorporating animals and mythical dragons into decorative motifs.
The Gorham Manufacturing Co. of Providence, Rhode Island, had a copy of Seder’s Das Thier in its library, and produced a silver pitcher in 1900 embellished with a dragon directly inspired by Seder’s title page. Indeed, collections of prints like Das Thier were popular at the turn of the century, providing source material for designers of fabrics, wallpaper, ceramics, book illustrations, posters, and advertisements. The leading Victorian publication of this type was Owen Jones’s Grammar of Ornament, first issued in a folio edition in London in 1856. Other trendsetting styles in art, design, decoration and fashion came from Paris. The best know are probably the works by Émile-Alain Séguy incorporating butterfly and insect motifs, and those by Ernst Haeckel (1834-1919), a professor of zoology, at the University of Jena, Germany. Haeckel’s scientific illustrations depicted aquatic organisms such as radiolarians, jellyfish, sea urchins and so forth in flowing, aesthetically striking compositions, such as were included in his work Kunstformen der Natur [Art Forms in Nature] (1899-1904). Other prolific publishers of this type of work were Armand Guérinet and Arsène Herbinier. Closely related to Seder’s renditions of aquatic motifs were the designs of Emile Belet.
Condition: Generally very good with the usual light overall toning, handling, soft creases, wear. Some sheets vary in overall paper tone, probably will not be evident with proper matting.
Breidbach, Olaf, Irenäus Eibl-Eibesfeldt and Richard Hartmann. Art Forms in Nature: The Prints of Ernst Haeckel. New York: Prestel, 1998.
Derville, Frank. “Ecole Supérieure des Arts Décoratifs.” Art Nouveau World Wide. 1993-2004. http://perso.wanadoo.fr/artnouveau/en/villes/strasbourg/batiments/academie01.htm (25 February 2005).
“Gorham Manufactoring Co.: A Martele Dragon Pitcher.” The British Antique Dealers’ Association. http://suntest.penseroso.com/provenart/dealer_stock_details.cgi?d_id=231&a_id=2085 (5 July 2005).