Rare Finds from the Archives: More from Alden and Vada Dow’s Art Print Collection

Along with the Georgia O’Keeffe and Vanity Fair portfolios previously highlighted, Alden and Vada Dow enjoyed the vibrant original prints created by the French artist and designer E. A. Seguy. He lived in Paris during the Art Deco and Art Nouveau movements of the 1920s. He produced 11 albums of illustrations, most of them focusing on elements from the natural world, such as flowers, foliage, animals, and insects. His patterns were bold and colorful, and reveal his unique interest in the study of nature as a source of inspiration for artistic creation.
Mr. and Mrs. Dow owned two of Seguy’s 11 albums of prints. Published around 1925, Bouquets et Frondaisons (Flowers and Foliage) is a collection of 20 illustrated plates with semi-abstract motifs inspired by nature, likely meant for textile and wallpaper designs. Executed with bright colors, the prints present an interesting combination of the Deco and Nouveau styles. Each plate features multiple patterns for a total of 60 designs.
The second Seguy album is entitled Suggestions pour Etoffes et Tapis (Suggestions for Fabrics and Carpets). It contains 20 plates mostly of stylized flowers, with a total of 60 designs as well. The prints in both albums measure 13 inches by 17.5 inches and are housed in pictorial board folders with ties.
Seguy’s prints were produced using a technique called pochoir, which is the French word for ‘stencil.’ Especially popular in Paris in the 1920s, it was a labor-intensive and precise practice that involved layering stencils on top of one another to create depth and texture. Each color in a design had its own stencil and layers of gouache or other pigments were applied through each stencil by hand with a brush or sponge. Some images may have required up to 100 stencils to produce a single print. The result, however, was the intense representation of the vivid colors of nature.
In addition to the two collections owned by the Dow’s, Seguy produced several other remarkable albums featuring scientifically accurate illustrations of butterflies and insects, as well as the abstract patterns inspired by prisms and crystals.
Did you know?  Appointments are welcome to view or study any of the Archives materials featured in this post and can be arranged by contacting us at archives@abdow.org.
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