Patterns from Nature
Posted on July 14, 2017
Nature’s design is everywhere; it is the fabric of our world. Ever moving and interacting, the natural world was described by Parisian entomologist and painter E.A. Seguy as a ‘world of sumptuous forms and colors.’ Born in 1890, he lived 5 years shy of a century and successfully practiced during periods popularized by both Art Nouveau & Art Deco.
Seguy specialized in Dipterology–the study of an estimated 1,000,000 species of flying insects–and made detailed paintings of many of them. He also held a chair of entomology at the Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle in Paris. The Museum was built on the site of a royal garden of medicinal plants created by King Louis XIII, but subsequently lost its purely medicinal function to became simply the Jardin Des Plantes, and a perfect place to observe insects.
Seguy produced patterns for eleven albums of illustrations intended to be used for wallpaper and fabrics, many taking inspiration from his study of insects. Working in both Nouveau & Deco styles, his work shows the transition occurring in design. While responding to the need for patterns to be more easily mass-produced, his designs were actually quite labor-intensive. He created them using the pochoir technique, a layered, hand-stenciled process taking up to 100 stencils to produce a single print. Unlike later Deco artwork that could get oversimplified, his prints have a retained a certain quality stemming from the pochoir technique–seeming graphically simple while still being organic, subtle, and detailed.
Not all his work contains insects, and with his more abstract patterns he seem to abstract nature one level further. While still grounded in the natural world, these prints are atmospheric instead of directly representational. In both, he manages to capture the movement and wonder of nature in striking images that transcend style and still feel fresh – an enduring testament to the powers of close observation and hand craft.