Das Thier in der Decorativen Kunst

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The development of the Arts and Crafts movement in the late 19th century led to the publication of many books and periodicals offering design suggestions to artists, craftspeople and decorators. The more popular examples, like the long-running Dekorative Vorbilder, comprised collections of plates by different artists, in styles that ran from imitations of rococo decoration to the latest Art Nouveau (or Jugendstil) graphics. Other books presented designs by single artists. Alphonse Mucha created two of these, Documents Decoratifs (1902) and Figures Décoratives (1905), while also collaborating with Maurice Verneuil and George Auriol on Combinaisons Ornementals (1901). Verneuil produced a book of his own designs, L’Animal dans la Decoration (1897), in which animals of all kinds were depicted in Verneuil’s precise and versatile Art Nouveau manner.

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Das Thier in der Decorativen Kunst (The Animal in Decorative Art) is an Austrian equivalent of L’Animal dans la Decoration, and one in which artist Anton Seder didn’t feel as constrained as Verneuil by biological accuracy. Three of the plates in Seder’s book are devoted to a variety of snarling dragons that were probably more useful for illustrators than interior designers. The rest of the book is a combination of reality and fantasy, with fish in various states of pop-eyed alarm, a collection of piscine grotesques that I’ll be looking at if I ever have to draw the inhabitants of Innsmouth again, and many beautiful renderings of birds, reptiles, crustaceans, feathers and shells. Seder’s book was reprinted by Dover Publications as Fantastic Beasts of the Nineteenth Century but you can browse or download the original for free here. (The date given at the Internet Archive is 1896 but several of the plates show dates later than this.)

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Previously on { feuilleton }
Dolmetsch’s Ornamentenschatz
Racinet’s Polychromatic Ornament
Buchschmuck und Flächenmuster by Max Benirschke
Christopher Dresser’s Studies in Design
Christopher Dresser’s Art of Decorative Design
Kunstgewerbliche Schmuckformen für die Fläche
Album de la décoration
The Grammar of Ornament revisited
Dekorative Vorbilder
Combinaisons Ornementales
Charles J Strong’s Book of Designs
Styles of Ornament
The Grammar of Ornament by Owen Jones

4 thoughts on “Das Thier in der Decorativen Kunst”

  1. Great stuff. Vicki’s right though. Got to have the hardcopy for work like this.

    Not completely tangential to the conversation I hope but I want to share a fine score made recently. A two volume hardback JJ Grandville set, Das Gesamte Werk, published in the late 60s. Natürlich auf Deutsch, of which mine is not completely hopeless but far from fluent. But who cares? Over 2000 pages of Grandville illustrations for which I paid 15, count’em, fifteen dollars American! I suppose if anyone saw it before me I guess they either didn’t know Grandville’s work or were put off by the German text. Anyway sometimes I think these books seek me out because they know they’ll find a good home. There must be hundreds of illustrations that I’ve never seen before but I’ve not had time to completely leaf through either volume. One that did make me laugh out loud was a drawing of a potted daisy with a waterpipe bending over farting out tobacco smoke!

  2. Thanks, everyone. I’d seen some of Seder’s drawings before but not this book. I wouldn’t mind a hard copy myself. Dover also do their own version of the Verneuil animals book which I’ve used a couple of times for its peacock designs.

    Stephen: I love those kinds of chance discoveries although they’re no longer possible round here since the last shop that sold quality secondhand books closed its doors and moved its stock online. Charity shops aren’t in the same league although I still keep looking.

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