Illustration for Caprices Décoratifs: Oiseaux d’Afrique [Birds of Africa]
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Jules Habert-Dys

Illustration for Caprices Décoratifs: Oiseaux d’Afrique [Birds of Africa]

Stephen Ongpin Fine Art

One of a group of original watercolours by Jules Habert-Dys that are studies for seven of the thirty-two colour plates in his book Caprices Décoratifs: des Oiseaux, des Fleurs, des Paysages, des Algues et Poissons, published in 1901. As the scholars Gabriel and Yvonne Weisberg have noted, ‘Although the motifs in these watercolors are randomly placed on the surface of the paper, without any clear orientation to each other, or directions about how they were to be used by a ceramic decorator on specific pieces, the fact that these drawings served as a starting point for actual objects…can be incontestably supported.’ The influence of Japanese prints is evident in each of these works, which stand as masterpieces of the Art Nouveau style.

This series of watercolours of birds are in superb, fresh condition, having been kept in an album since they were commissioned from Habert-Dys by Henri Laurens, the publisher of Caprices Décoratifs. The birds depicted in these works include kingfishers, goldfinches and hummingbirds. The use of gold in many of these watercolours is a particular characteristic of much of the artist’s work. As the Weisbergs have pointed out, ‘Habert-Dys’ fondness for the use of gold, sometimes just a small speck in the overall design and at other times being employed more extensively, suggests that his designs were being developed for people of considerable wealth; any gold objects in their interiors would be matched by the gold on the plates which they were using for dinner ware.’

Provenance: Henri Laurens, Paris
Private collection.

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