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Design, Natural History, Animals, Anton Seder, Das Thier, Antique Prints, 1890

Anton Seder (after)
Th. Mayerhofer, M. Jaffé, E. Beck, A. Berger, Ch. Reisser, M. Werthner, et al. (lithographers and printers)
Art Nouveau Animal Designs
from Das Thier in der Decorativen Kunst Serie 1-2
[The Animal in Decorative Art Series 1 and 2]

Gerlach & Schenk/ Gerlach & Wiedling, Vienna: 1896-1909
14.5 x 19 inches, printed border, average approximate
17 x 22 inches, overall, average approximate
$450 to $750 each

See other Art Nouveau Works on Our Site: Seder Plant Motifs | Séguy Butterflies | Séguy Insects

Imagery of animals, including marine life, reptiles, and birds incorporated into elaborate and innovative Art Nouveau designs, in a series of Anton Seder prints. Although most depict real animals in correct proportion and natural poses, a few plates portray mythical dragons. As an example, one composition integrates an assortment of shells with underwater flora into an artful still life. Another represents stylized fish in a series of compositions reminiscent of Japanese prints. The graceful curves of marine life such as lobsters, crabs and shrimp inspire complex flowing designs in several plates. Reptiles are represented in a lithograph that integrates five naturalistic studies of alligators and crocodiles in landscape settings and in another print comprised of fanciful arrangements of snakes with their sinuous curves. Birds are featured in a composition of eagles in various stages of flight and repose; a different ornithological print incorporates a variety of colorful border designs and patterns created from arrangements of feathers.

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The sinuous, flowing lines and incorporation of naturalistic motifs are typical of Art Nouveau design (known in Germany as Jugendstil). Nonetheless, other Victorian stylistic influences are also evident, including Baroque revival in the stylized ribbons of seaweed or overlapping arthropods, and a sensibility derived from Japanese woodblock prints and folding screens in which the animals overlap geometric shapes. Some of the prints incorporate a decorative monogram or signature formed from Seder’s initials (A.S.) as part of the composition.

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. 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. Seder co-edited the magazine Das Kunstgewerbe in Elsass-Lothringen [The Arts and Crafts in Alsace-Lorraine]. His designs were also included in many periodicals of decorative arts designs, issued as chromolithographs. Seder’s best known separate 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: 1896-1909), 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: Each generally very good with the usual overall light toning and wear. Some with a bit handling with minor soiling. Some with bends, chips, short tears to outer edges in blank margins, all can be matted out.


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. (25 February 2005).

“Gorham Manufactoring Co.: A Martele Dragon Pitcher.” The British Antique Dealers’ Association. (5 July 2005).

Additional information


19th Century