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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Combinaisons Ornementales

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After writing about Charles J Strong’s Book of Designs a couple of days ago, it seems pertinent to point the way to a far more essential Art Nouveau design book which can also be found at the Internet Archive. Combinaisons Ornementales was a collaboration between Maurice Verneuil, George Auriol and Alphonse Mucha published in 1901, and comprises 60 plates of beautifully elegant designs (“multipliable to infinity with the aid of a mirror”) which range from Mucha’s abstractions to Verneuil’s flower motifs. The examples shown here are all by Mucha; I borrowed one of the flourishes and the peacock feather for the Dodgem Logic cover design earlier this year.

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For a quick look at all the plates, the NYPL Digital Gallery has scans. Mucha produced another design book the following year, Documents Decoratifs, although I’ve yet to see an edition of that online.

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Previously on { feuilleton }
Charles J Strong’s Book of Designs
Mucha’s Zodiac
Dodgem Logic #4
Peacocks

Peacocks

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The Modern Poster by Will Bradley (1895).

A selection from the NYPL Digital Gallery. There’s more by the great Will Bradley (1868–1962) here.

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Abstract design based on peacock feathers by Maurice Verneuil (1900?).

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Pavo; Lophophorus (1834–1837).

Elsewhere on { feuilleton }
The illustrators archive

Previously on { feuilleton }
Rene Beauclair
Elizabetes Iela 10b, Riga
The Maison Lavirotte
Whistler’s Peacock Room
Beardsley’s Salomé