In 1920, the Textile manufacturer F. Schumacher and Co. , a company based in New York and South Carolina and which actually still exists, commissioned the work Papillons or Butterflies from the French artist Émile Alain Séguy. In the introduction Seguy wrote that “butterflies offer us a sumptuous world of shapes and colours that have rarely been used by artists.”
Although slowly becoming more famous these days, not least because of the amazing Butterfly prints featured in this post, not much is known about Émile Alain Séguy. A situation that isn’t helped because the important Art Deco artist famous for his work with butterflies and insects is often confused with his namesake Eugène Seguy a French entomologist of international renown
Émile Alain Séguy was born in France in 1877 and went to the Decorative Arts School in Paris. At the age of 36, he founded the art department of the Grands Magasins du Printemps and worked on the publication of sophisticated catalogs. The now famous collection of Butterflies was published in 1928 and consisted of compositions of butterflies which could be used for wallpaper, textiles, and other interior and fashion design purposes. Using scientific books for reference and inspiration, Séguy reproduced 81 butterflies within 16 compositions, as well as four additional plates of decorative patterns inspired by butterfly wings, using the pochoir (French for ‘stencil’) technique.
Dover Publications reproduced Seguy’s albums in a book entitled Seguy’s Decorative Butterflies and Insects in Full Color. The publisher had this to say about Seguy: “His aim was to make available dozens of examples of extremely colorful exotic animals that had been unjustly neglected by occidental decorative artists because of their rarity in life and in illustration. It is interesting to note that Seguy, while confident that butterflies would be readily accepted, made the special plea for the other insects that were constructed like wonderful machines and were thus entitled to the same consideration as an airplane fuselage, an ocean liner or locomotive; nature was a successful industrial designer!”
We have gone back to the original book put together by Séguy in the late 1920s to reproduce as accurately as possible these sixteen sumptuous prints. They are printed on very high quality Hahnemüle Photorag paper – popular amongst artists, illustrators and photographers. The paper provided accurate colour reproduction and excellent detail.
You can order Emile-Allain Séguy’s Butterflies as prints, cards, wrapping paper and more in the Flashbak Shop. See the collection here.
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