In his foreword to Papillons, Séguy describes the prints as “un monde somptueux de formes et de couleurs” — a world of sumptuous forms and colors. He explains that they are intended to provide a record of rare, exotic specimens from museums and private collections, within an aesthetic context, thereby making them more widely accessible as inspiration for decorative arts designers. Nonetheless, Séguy based his images of butterflies and insects on illustrations in scientific publications, thereby maintaining scientific accuracy. They were enlarged up to 10 to 15 times to reveal intricacies of their design not visible without magnification. Also included with the set was a Table Des Noms Scientifiques [Table of Scientific Names], providing the technical species and genus names as well as the countries or regions of habitat for the species shown in Plates 1 through 16.
Émile-Alain Séguy produced eleven albums of illustrations and designs from the turn of the century to the 1930s, and his style reflected the influences of both Art Nouveau and Art Deco. His various color portfolios of visual ideas for artists and designers often featured motifs based on the natural world, including flowers, foliage, crystals and animals. Although his compositions were design oriented, he made the depictions scientifically accurate. His later works showed an increased interest in geometric and cubist designs. The prints in the portfolios were produced using the pochoir technique characterized by rich, intense color. This printing process, utilized in the early 20th century for high quality prints, involved applying colors to each plate with a number of stencils. Séguy’s works include Les Fleurs et Leurs Applications Decoratives (1900), Samarkande – 20 Compositions en Couleurs dans le Style Oriental (1914), Floreal (1920), Papillons (1924), Insectes (1924), Primavera –Dessins et Coloris Nouveaux (1929), Suggestions (1930), and Prismes – 40 Planches de Dessins et Coloris Nouveaux (1931).
The scholarly consensus is that E.A. Séguy’s full name was Émile-Alain Séguy and he lived from 1877 to 1945. Nonetheless, in some sources he is referred to as Eugène-Alain rather than Émile-Alain. This was probably in mistaken reference to Eugène-Alain Séguy (1890-1985), a professor in entomology at Le Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle in Paris. The Union List of Artist Names maintained by the Getty Research Institute lists the preferred name and spelling as “E.A. Séguy.”
Collections of prints like these provided source material for designers of fabrics, wallpaper, ceramics, book illustrations, posters, and advertisements, and were popular in the late 19th and early 20th century. 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 in the second half of the 19th century, and early 20th century, came from Paris, Austria, Switzerland, and Germany, and many such print collections were published there, including designs by Eugene Alain Séguy, Émile Belet, Ernst Haeckel, Arsène Herbinier, and Anton Seder, and publications by Armand Guérinet. Some prints were separately issued to be framed and used as decoration in their own right, though were still known in the trade to be used for design inspiration, such as works by Émile Vouga and Christine Klein. Generally the works were printed in rich colors with chromolithography. Other print techniques frequently employed include pochoir (c. 1920s, with brilliant colors), hand-colored lithographs, heliotypes, etc. To search our site for more Art Nouveau designs by such artists please type “Art Nouveau” or “decorative arts designs” into our search engine.
Editions Duchartre et Van Buggenhoudt was a publisher located at 15 Rue Ernest-Cresson, Paris. The series also was published by Tolmer Editeur, 13 Quai d’Danjou, Paris.
Condition: Generally very good, the colors overall very bright. Usual toning, handling, and slight brittleness of paper. Some paper tones vary. Some minor general soiling, stray printer’s ink, smudges. Some edges with minor chipping, short tears, bent or creased corners, now restored and can be matted out when framed. Please inquire as to specific condition of any print under consideration.
Breidbach, Olaf, Irenäus Eibl-Eibesfeldt and Richard Hartmann. Art Forms in Nature: The Prints of Ernst Haeckel. New York: Prestel, 1998.
Nissen, Claus. Die Zoologische Buchillustration: ihre Bibliographie und Geschichte. Stuttgart: 1969-78. 3798.
Sear, Dexter. “E.A. Séguy Exhibition: 20 January – 21 March, 2003.” Lancaster University Library. 18 February 2003. http://domino.lancs.ac.uk/INFO/LUNews.nsf/I/00001C1E (11 July 2003).