Friday, 10 September 2010

Decorative Pattern Work by Jacques Camus

Illustration: Jacques Camus. Page from Idees, 1922.

French artist and designer Jacques Camus produced a range of pattern work portfolios of which Idees is a typical example. Idees was originally published in 1922 and is a perfect example of the changes that had taken place in the decorative arts of Europe during and after the First World War. Although the design work shown here is clearly a continuation of the more developed and later period of the Art Nouveau movement, it has begun to break out of the constraints of pre-war Europe, opening up many more avenues of key influences that were to include, probably for the first time such things as popular culture and the still relatively controversial and often deeply unpopular cincepts behind contemporary fine art techniques.

The design and decorative work examples shown here are all pages from Camus Idees portfolio. As the title suggests, the pattern work was all produced by Camus to be used as an inspirational guide to the decoration and ornamentation of the decorative arts. Even though these are clearly a source of excellent surface pattern styling, including various motifs, some even with added suggested colourways, they were also used to inspire the decoration of a range of flat and three-dimensional products from wallpapers, through textiles to ceramics.

Illustration: Jacques Camus. Page from Idees, 1922.

These portfolios, which were usually French in origin and produced by a whole range of talented artists and designers including Eugene Alain Seguy, Maurice Pillard Verneuill, Edouard Benedictus, Augustus H Thomas, Andre Durenceau, Rene Beauclair and even Sonia Delaunay, have a history that is much longer than is often assumed. Suggested Art Nouveau pattern work was being produced at the very beginning of the twentieth century by the likes of Eugene Alain Seguy. However, the genre of these portfolios goes back well into the nineteenth century and beyond.

There were of course other forms of portfolio produced in other European countries apart from France. However, the French production of these portfolios was much more influential and more widely used throughout Europe during the first four decade period of the twentieth century, that in many respects France can be seen to have dominated this particular period of European decorative history, much of it through the concerted effort of the expansion of French inspired pattern work that was not always necessarily clearly French in immediate origin, but was inspirational outside of France and therefore ultimately French.

Illustration: Jacques Camus. Page from Idees, 1922.

Camus work is an interesting mixture of styles that show the early origin of the pattern work. 1922 could be seen as a point where the late style of Art Nouveau, which had been transforming itself throughout the war period into a much less elaborate and less involved style, was rapidly becoming what we would consider early Art Deco.

It is important to note that no style or decorative movement was ever produced in a vacuum. All are dependent upon and very often the direct result of the previous style that it eventually supersedes. When placed next to each other typical examples of both Art Nouveau and Art Deco appear distinctly and clearly dissimilar. Nevertheless, each contains links, continuations and genuine shared vocabulary that clearly pass through and connect the two styles.

Illustration: Jacques Camus. Page from Idees, 1922.

It is sometimes interesting to see the natural progression of pattern work from Art Nouveau through to Art Deco, by taking the work of a particular designer or artist and tracing their career through the two styles. This is where these French portfolios come into their own as a number of the artists who contributed to them were working from the early years of the twentieth century right through until the 1930s.

These valuable illustrations are genuine and important examples, giving us typical an insight into the decorative arts and pattern work of a period. However, perhaps even more importantly, they also give us a good and clear indication of the development and evolution of decoration and pattern work over a continuously longer period, which is fascinating in its own right and these are now invaluable as a source.

Illustration: Jacques Camus. Page from Idees, 1922.

Reference links: 
Art Deco Textiles: The French Designers
French Art Deco Fashions: In Pochoir Prints from the 1920s (Schiffer Design Book)
French Modern: Art Deco Graphic Design (Chronicle's Art Deco Design Series , Vol 5)
Encyclopedie Art deco (French Edition)
Art Moderne: Art Nouveau, Futurisme, Esthétisme, Internationale Situationniste, École de Paris, Lettrisme, Fauvisme, Art Abstrait, Art Déco (French Edition)
Art Deco Fashion: French Designers, 1908-1925 (Academy Art Editions)
Art Deco Fashion : French Designers Nineteen Eight to Nineteen Twenty-Five
Art Deco Design (Dover Pictura)
Art Deco Patterns & Designs (International Design Library)
Art Deco Decorative Patterns in Full Color (Dover Pictorial Archive Series)
Art Deco: The Golden Age of Graphic Art and Illustration

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