Dekorative Vorbilder


Richard Kühnel.

Some of the Art Nouveau plates from Dekorative Vorbilder, a series devoted to the decorative arts published in Germany from 1895 on. The interior design suggestion above has me wondering whether there’s ever been another period of design when it’s seemed quite natural (so to speak) to offer a giant insect and monstrous flowers as wall motifs. Something to bear in mind if anyone tries to argue that Art Nouveau wasn’t a radical form.


Georges de Feure.

These plates are all from a collection at the NYPL Digital Gallery where the samples available cover a range of styles from the ancient world to the 19th century. The collection there doesn’t seem complete, unfortunately, and much as I’d like to point to a complete set elsewhere that doesn’t seem possible for the time being. If anyone knows otherwise, please leave a comment.


Otto Prutscher.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Combinaisons Ornementales
Charles J Strong’s Book of Designs
Styles of Ornament
The Grammar of Ornament by Owen Jones

Historic Design in Printing


16th century binding designs.

If anyone was wondering why I keep trawling through the scanned books at the Internet Archive, let this volume stand as one of many reasons why. Historic Design in Printing was published in 1923 by the Graphic Arts Company, Boston (USA), and is edited by one Henry Lewis Johnson. The book’s subtitle, “Reproductions of book covers, borders, initials, decorations, printers’ marks and devices comprising reference material for the designer, printer, advertiser and publisher” gives an idea of the content. Many of the motifs are familiar to me from books in Dover Publications’ Pictorial Archive series while a number of the sets of initials I have as bad reproductions in a book by a French publisher. This would suggest that Historic Design in Printing has served as a resource for later collections, and a very fine resource it is too. Download it in a variety of formats here.


Title-page border, 1567.



Initial designed by Georg Heinrich Paritus, 1710.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Combinaisons Ornementales
Charles J Strong’s Book of Designs

Combinaisons Ornementales


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.


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.


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

Charles J Strong’s Book of Designs


Another gem from the cornucopia of scanned books at the Internet Archive, Charles J Strong’s Book of Designs was a style guide and motif resource for artists and amateur craftspeople tasked with the creation of advertising show cards or shop display signs. The book was first published by the Detroit School of Lettering in 1910, hence the heavy reliance on Art Nouveau flourishes which by this stage had degenerated from their Mucha-derived elegance into unbridled, and frequently undisciplined, rococo embellishments.


If a few of the designs lack Mucha’s care there are still some great examples here of generic Art Nouveau in its final days before Art Deco streamlined all those curves away. In the examples below a poster suggestion shows everyone’s favourite fin de sìecle gal, Salomé, while the final example shows one of Strong’s typeface designs. For anyone who likes the look of these pages but would prefer them in better quality, Dover Publications have a reprint scheduled for later this year.

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