Saturday, May 11, 2019

Plants and Ornament

Design teacher Eugène Grasset published a portfolio called Plants and Their Application to Ornament in 1896. In the book he chooses 24 common plant types and interprets them in various decorative schemes.

He starts by drawing them fairly literally and increasingly abstracts them to explore their design possibilities.

Here's how he suggests that an art student should proceed:
1. Learn how to draw accurately.
2. Gain experience with the properties of the drawing and painting media.
3. Study and absorb the specific forms of the natural world.
4. Apply all that knowledge to pictorial or decorative work.

Grasset says:
"The draughtsman who fails to apprehend the laws which tell him when to go forward and when to use restraint in representing the object as he sees it, is as great a blunderer as he who mis-draws a tree branch or the features and limbs of his model, or he who confuses his perspective. The art of drawing is not the art of observing forms and objects alone, it is not mere mimicry of these objects; it is the art of knowing how far and wherein, and with what just limitations, those forms and objects can be reproduced in a picture, or in a decorative work."
Grasset was part of a larger artistic movement. He owed a debt to the design instincts of William Morris, who came before him, and his publication influenced Alphonse Mucha and other artists of the Art Nouveau movement who came after. 

1 comment:

Timothy Bollenbaugh said...

My gratitude for the presentation and link.

Internet Archive offers some free downloads from a 19th century scientist and artist, Christopher Dresser. Dialogue is a bit ponderous, but the books are free, containing good observations, from a first-hand viewpoint.Pays to know the thought behind the process and product.
Unity in variety, as deduced from the vegetable kingdom : being an attempt at developing that oneness which is discoverable in the habits, mode of growth, and principle of construction of all plants
[Album of nineteenth and twentieth century architectural postcards]
Principles of decorative design