Art Deco Butterflies: The Genius of E.A. Séguy

Art Deco evolved from the failure of Art Nouveau to reconcile 20th-century art and industry. While Art Nouveau artists understood and stressed the relationship between architecture and decoration, Deco designers reached out to make stronger visual associations. Borrowing from Cubist blocks, Fauvist colors, and Futurist motion, Art Deco artists created bold, simple designs suitable for mass production. Different rhythms were established for various decorative arts, endowing materials and forms with a more dramatic effect. Designers working in the Art Deco style, like the brilliant E.A. Séguy (1889-1985), changed the history and direction of modern design. Shunning the prettiness affected by Art Nouveau artists, innovators like Séguy made two-dimensional compositions that pulsate with rhythmic energy through the sophisticated use of color abstraction. Séguy's Butterflies, published in 1928, demonstrates a master's skill at rendering a realistic composition through strong primary colors and sharp tonal contrasts. Unfortunately, later Art Deco design in less competent hands often degenerated into garish kitsch.

E.A. Séguy. Papillons [Butterflies]. Paris: Éditions Duchartre et van Buggenhoudt, 1928.
The New York Public Library, The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs, Art & Architecture Collection.

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