Biology & Natural History

(Art Nouveau) [Verneuil, Maurice Pillard] | Le Décor Floral

  • A striking Art Nouveau design portfolio, unusual for using photography to depict geometric floral arrangements.

    This portfolio is usually attributed to the French designer and commercial artist Maurice Pillard Verneuil (1869-1942), a student of Eugène Grasset whose career successfully spanned both Art Nouveau and Art Deco eras. If so it would be his only known photographic work. As bookseller Daniela Kromp has explained, it may be that Verneuil was inspired by the Viennese pioneer of botanical photography, Martin Gerlach (1846-1918), who was producing botanical portfolios as early as 1893.

    “Although in Helen Bieri Thomson's bibliography, Verneuil is named as the author (or editor) of Le Décor Floral (cf. p. 118), he isn't known as a photographer so far. Thus, Verneuil presumably has not done the photographs himself, but at least he made the arrangements of the plants and of each particular plate... it is known that Verneuil made a journey to Vienna in 1902 (cf. Thomson p. 13). Perhaps he got to know Martin Gerlach's photographic work there in detail and received the essential inspiration for Le Décor Floral” (Kromp, "Short List for London 2018", item 45).

    The publisher of this set, Librairie Centraledes Beaux-Arts, was one of the primary firms of the Art Nouveau movement, producing important work by Alphonse Mucha and Eugène Grasset, as well as other important portfolios by Verneuil.

  • Documents d’Art Décoratif d’après Nature...50 Planches. Bordures et Panneaux Semis, Fonds ornés, etc. Paris: Librairie Centraledes Beaux-Arts, [c. 1904].

    Folio. Half title and 50 tinted collotype prints after photographs, 4-page title and publisher’s prospectus printed in green and brown. In the original linen-backed card portfolio with linen ties. Bernard Quaritch ink stamp to the title, ink stamp of the Birmingham Assay office Library to the inside of the cover. Portfolio browned and rubbed with some wear at the corners and slight creasing to the upper cover, linen ties browned but intact, title and prospectus toned and a little rubbed at the extremities, plates very faintly toned at the edges. Portfolio professionally cleaned and spine caps repaired by Bainbridge Conservation. Very good condition.