The VMFA Rare Book Collection at the Margaret R. and Robert M. Freeman Library comprises approximately 3,600 volumes of material including monographs, exhibition catalogs, portfolios and rare journals representing the full range of the humanities and arts disciplines held in the main library. Areas of emphasis reflect the strength of museum holdings in the areas of Art Nouveau, Art Deco, Arts and Crafts, design, applied arts, decorative arts, and German Expressionism. Artist illustrated books, European and American publishers’ bindings, and turn of the century periodicals are other areas of interest.
Insectes by Eugene Alain Seguy is one of eleven albums of illustrations and designs that Seguy produced from the turn of the century to the 1930s. Papillons, also owned by VMFA, is the only other albums of his illustrations and patterns dedicated to insect subjects. Seguy was one of the foremost French designers at the beginning of the 20th century. Working in both the Art Deco and Art Nouveau styles, he published many design folios utilizing the pochoir technique, a printing process that employs a series of stencils to lay dense and vivid color via the application of layers of gouache paint. Seguy intended to inspire decorative designers and glorify the sublime beauty of nature.
Paul Poiret continued his practice of engaging artists to interpret his fashion designs with Les Choses de Paul Poiret illustrated by Georges Lepape in 1911. The album was distributed without charge to Poiret's elite clientele. The look of this album differs greatly in style from the earlier album illustrated by Paul Iribe, as Lepape has taken a less traditional approach. In this example, Lepape shows some models turning their backs to the viewer or exiting the frame which introduces a narrative element to the scenes. The illustrations are executed in pochoir and several images such as the face of a woman wearing a turbinwould become iconic images of the period. They have a feeling of modernity and the work is clearly a precursor to the Art Deco style introduced in the 1920’s. Les Choses de Paul Poiret is widely considered to be one of the most important and beautiful fashion books of the early twentieth century.
Three popular fashion illustrators, Paul Iribe, George Barbier and Georges Lepape all contributed to L'Eventail et la Fourrure Chez Paquin, a fashion album illustrating furs and fans made for the female couturier Jeanne Paquin. This rare and beautiful album for fashion design consists of 7 plates of designs executed in pochoir, printed by Maquet. Paquin a is known for her business sense and her novel use of fans as a promotional tool.
In 1908, Poiret commissioned artist Paul Iribe to illustrate Les Robes de Paul Poiret, a publicity album designed to showcase Poiret’s fashion collection for that year. The album comprises relief etchings on laid paper with hand-applied color (pochoir), bound in paper boards. Iribe’s innovative design approach was to emphasize the fashions by employing unshaded areas of bright color against black and white backgrounds. For this reasons the album is considered to be a landmark in the history of twentieth-century fashion illustration. In addition, Poiret’s couture styles created a controversy as they endorsed relaxed lines, effectively freeing women’ s bodies from the corseted silhouette favored by past styles.
Published to coincide with the 1925 Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes (International Exhibition of Modern and Industrial Decorative Arts) held in Paris, this early portfolio features Delaunay’s designs for paintings, fashions, costumes, textiles, household objects, and decorative patterns. The large scale and fine print quality evident in this rare portfolio highlights the vibrant colors and dynamic lines that characterize Delaunay’s oeuvre. This folio demonstrates Delaunay’s ability to work in various media and is considered to be her most significant fashion and design statement.