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By Nina J P Evans

Monday, June 06, 2016

E.A. Séguy

E.A. Séguy was a rather elusive French character of the early 20th century, he doesn’t even exist on Wikipedia or at least there’s a mix-up online between him and Eugène Séguy. Eugène Séguy was a zoologiste et entomologiste with a very similar name and entomological background, rather than E.A. Séguy officially known as Emile-Allain Séguy (1877-1951) was a painter and entomologist. Important to note is that he has been credited with authentic authorship by the Met Museum and Christie’s Auction House. His studies produced many published illustrated editions, showcased below are two of his most renown, colourfully illustrated books titled Insectes and Papillons respectively — are said to be inspired by Art Nouveau and Art Deco of the 1920s/30s, which is when about they were published and indeed a great source material for textiles of that period. Insectes is detailed with a vast amount of technical illustrations of the species, especially dragonflies and damselflies, beetles and wasps with magnificent fine jewel-like wings, iridescent colouring and geometric patterns in the composite designs. Papillons dedicated study includes 81 varieties and 16 amazing composite textile pattern designs, using the same process of pochoir and lithograph printing as the other publication with the same stunning masterful illustrative style.

Pochoir printmaking is a method adapted today by graffiti artists and previously Henri Matisse. Firstly, detailed stencils plates of either card or thin copper sheets are created. Each, inked up with different colours and placed strategically into position, what’s quite remarkable is the amount of stencils used, and the precision placement involved; he likely worked with more than one assistant throughout this process. Additionally colour matching would have been recorded as so to produce reproductions accurately. These fine prints in limited editions are still sometimes obtainable as individual prints are priced of about £2,000 today through Christie’s Auction House.

It is said that he described his illustrations as “un monde somptueux de formes et de couleurs” (a world of sumptuous forms and colours). Perhaps with the aid of the microscope he was better able to examine the smallest of subject matter. Actually observing the absurdly striking colours, forms and pattern detailing of each studied species. Also worth mentioning is the arrangement and grouping of the varieties of insects into pleasing compositions within the publications design format. It is ironic that there is confusion over his accreditation, perhaps E.A. Séguy would be most amused — as in the insect world there are no precise and easy ways to tell butterflies, moths and other like insects apart.

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