Emile-Allain Séguy saw in butterflies “un monde somptueux de formes et de couleurs” (a world of sumptuous forms and colors) and he brought that world to vivid life in Papillons (1925).

Emile-Allain Séguy, (1877–1951).
Folio cover, Papillons,
Emile-Allain Séguy. (1925).

Emile-Allain Séguy described the illustrations in one of his best-known collections, Papillons (1925), as “un monde somptueux de formes et de couleurs”- a world of sumptuous forms and colors.

That’s exactly how he saw the natural world. As a rich, inspirational and untapped source for his designs.

Séguy was a popular French designer throughout the Art Deco and Art Nouveau movements of the 1920s. Many designers took inspiration from nature but his interest in the scientific study of insects as a source of inspiration for artistic creation was totally unique.

Séguy was a sharer. His illustrations in Papillons were meant to inspire other textile and wallpaper designers.

These prints were produced using the pochoir technique, a labor-intensive and precise practice of layering stencils on top of one another to create depth and texture. Some of the more intricate images used over 100 stencils for a single print.

Commissioned in 1920 by the American textile manufacturer F. Schumacher and Co., Papillons featured stunning compositions of butterflies, all drawn using scientific illustrations for reference. Altogether there are 81 butterflies in the 16 compositions, as well as four additional plates of decorative patterns inspired by butterfly wings.

The almost 100 year old cover of Papillons may be yellowing and faded but the colour inside is as inspirationally vivid as ever, and the detail of that time consuming pochoir printing is exquisite.

Séguy saw in the intricate patterns and beauty of butterflies a perfect, stylistic fit for Art Nouveau & Art Deco. He called them his “mechanical wonders”.

If you like this, check out Séguy’s 1931 follow up : Prismes.

Papillons, Pl. 17 (1925).
Papillons, Pl. 1 (1925).
Papillons, Pl. 5 (1925).
Papillons, Pl. 4 (1925).
Papillons, Pl. 18 (1925).
Papillons, Pl. 2 (1925).
Papillons, Pl. 3 (1925).
Papillons, Pl. 6 (1925).
Papillons, Pl. 19 (1925).
Papillons, Pl. 7 (1925).
Papillons, Pl. 8 (1925).
Papillons, Pl. 9 (1925).
Papillons, Pl. 920(1925).
Papillons, Pl. 10 (1925).
Papillons, Pl. 11 (1925).
Papillons, Pl. 13 (1925).
Papillons, Pl. 14 (1925).
Papillons, Pl. 15 (1925).

If you liked this, check out Séguy’s 1931 follow up: Prismes.

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