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Seated in Nature

by Stacy J. Schiff on

Library News

By Stacy J. Schiff, Visual Resources Librarian

The Museum Library owns two of E.A. Seguy’s pochoir albums of the 1920s: Papillons and Insectes, both of which are collections of folios in vivid color and include design compositions at the back.  Popular works of Art Deco design among more scholarly natural science tomes, these holdings have inspired in many much curiosity and enthusiasm.  Researching the work of E.A. Seguy for a presentation which was based on Fashion in the Natural World, an essay I wrote for the Museum Library’s 2012 publication, Natural Histories: Extraordinary Rare Book Selections from the American Museum of Natural History, I happily found that the well-known textile manufacturer, F. Schumacher & Company produced some of Seguy’s work on textiles which were used to upholster chairs shown at the 1925 Paris Exposition.  Motivated by the possibility of seeing Seguy’s work on textiles and getting more details about the Paris Expo, I contacted Avodica Ash at the Schumacher Archives. Ms. Ash was enormously helpful about the story and not only did she quickly provide those details about which I was curious, but she also provided images I could share in my presentation. 

Ms. Ash wrote that a “Butterflies” pattern by E.A. Seguy was used on tonneau or barrel-shaped chairs in the Art Moderne design showroom at the Expo, which included other elements of design also inspired by nature, such as wall coverings by Follot titled “Cobwebs.”  F. Schumacher & Company had the “Butterflies” chairs, as part of the entire Expo showroom, recreated in New York City, and manufactured the textiles for sale in two colorways – orange and teal, and ice blue, in a rayon brocade.

Butterflies in Ice Blue, courtesy of F. Schumacher & Company, 2013.

Coinciding with the Museum's exhibition Natural Histories: 400 Years of Scientific Illustration from the Museum’s Library, currently on display through October 12, 2014, an online exhibit has a curated sampling of the images found in Natural Histories, with highlights from the forty essays it contains on a variety of scientific topics.  Several plates from both Seguy albums are showcased in the online exhibit, providing examples of the pochoir technique, as well as butterfly specimens and design compositions.

Finnin, Denis, “Design compositions from Seguy's Papillons,” AMNH Digital Special Collections.