Francois-Louis Schmied (1873-1941) was an important painter, illustrator, wood engraver, printer, editor and bookbinder particularly known for his beautiful limited edition books. He is considered a major artist in the Art Deco style, particularly in the area of publishing fine books for bibliophiles.
Schmied books were very expensive to produce and were always printed in a very limited edition, usually numbering no more than 100-200 copies. His marketing strategy was to display sheets of his work in progress at an annual Parisian art fair and seek out the subscription of wealthy bibliophiles and other interested organizations.
He first gained notoriety with his commission to engrave and print the illustrations of Paul Jouve for Rudyard Kipling’s Le Livre de la Jungle which was finally published in 1919. The success of that production allowed Schmied to expand his operations, purchase a Stanhope hand-press, and hire a group of craftsmen who helped him to execute some of his most famous and pioneering work such as Les Climats (1924), Daphne (1924), Le Cantique des cantiques (1925), Les Ballades Francaises, (1927), Les Douze Cesars (1928), Kim (1930), Ruth et Booz (1930), and Peau-Brune de St. Nazaire a la Ciotat (1931).
Once the Great Depression took hold, the economic climate could no longer support the cost of Schmied’s books, and he was forced to sell off virtually all of his assets and close his workshop.
Le Livre de la Jungle, 1919
KIPLING, Rudyard (1865-1936); Paul JOUVE (1878-1973, illustrator) and François-Louis SCHMIED (1873-1941, designer). Le Livre de la jungle.Paris: [Printed by Philippe Renouard for] Société du Livre contemporain, 1919.
Limited edition of 125 press-numbered copies created and printed for members of the Société du livre contemporain, the exclusive French literary group; with an original drawing by the artist.The Société’s project to issue a translation of Kipling’s bestseller was conceived in 1905, and by 1910 Jouve, noted for his paintings and sculptures of African animals, had been selected as the illustrator, and Schmied to execute the wood-cuts of the drawings. The project was halted by World War I but resumed in 1918. When the initial printer, Philippe Renouard, could not complete the printing, Schmied took over, finishing in 1919. The success of the book established Schmied as one of the preeminent wood-cut artists of his day. Ritchie 4. See G. Ray, The Art of the French Illustrated Book, p. 377.
Les Climats, 1924
NOAILLES (Comtesse de). Illustrated by SCHMIED, Francois-Louis. Limited edition of 125 numbered copies.
In this collection of 46 poems, the Comtesse de Noailles evokes impressions of travel in northern Europe and the Mediterranean basin, praising his enchantment of Sicily, the desert of the evenings, the gardens of Lombardy, the Roman days, the Venetian night, the Rhine spring, the Baden nights, etc.
SCHMIED, Francois-Louis, illustrator. VIGNY, Alfred de. Daphné. Paris: Chez F.-L. Schmied, Peintre-Graveur-Imprimeur, 1924. Limited to 140 numbered copies
“Beginning in 1921 the four friends, artists Paul Jouve and Jean Goulden, Jean Dunand, a master-artist in lacquer who had been a friend of Schmied’s since their student days at the École des Arts Industriels de Genève, and Schmied held a joint exhibit at the Galerie Georges Petit. These continued each year until 1931 when they became a victim of the depression. While the others showed their art, Schmied showed layouts and sample pages of projected books, for which he took orders. Inasmuch as his books usually took several years to produce Daphné was the first of his own publications to be so shown and later printed. It is a remarkable book, architecturally designed with monumental initial letters unrivalled in book design. Schmied formulated a soft black velvet-textured ink which was the envy of printers. It was a secret formula which Schmied would not divulge. This was fortunate, since in time it bled through the paper and offset onto facing pages. While it couldn’t spoil the basic beauty of the Daphné, it was a distracting blemish affecting many of the text pages. Oddly enough on the title page and the opposing frontispiece it creates a design of great unplanned beauty. One hundred and forty copies were printed on the handpress.” (Ward Ritchie. Art Deco. The Books of Francois-Louis-Schmied… p.24).
Le Cantique des cantiques, 1925
SCHMIED, Francois-Louis, illustrator. Decoration, composition, and layout by F.-L. Schmied – Engraving and printing assistance by Pierre Bouchet – Translation by Ernest Renan (1823–1892) – Binding by Georges Cretté
The production of Le Cantique des Cantiques required one thousand blocks. As in the case of many of Schmied’s books, the production took several years to complete. Limited edition of 110 and includes an original drawing, bound into the front, of a rainbow over grazing sheep.
Les Ballades Francaises, 1927
SCHMIED, Francois-Louis, illustrator. FORT, Paul. Les Ballades Francaises. Montagne, Foret, Plaine, Mer [Mountain, Forest, Plains, Sea]. Lyon: Cercle Lyonnais du Livre, 1927. Limited to 120 copies (this for Victor Blanchet) out of a total edition of 165.
“One hundred and twenty copies were printed for members of the Cercle Lyonnais du Livre, each copy printed with the name of the recipient member… As occasionally happened with Schmied’s books, the paper was uncomfortably heavy. It was fine as the books were issued in loose sheets in a portfolio, but quite stiff in a bound book. This was evidently the last book on which Pierre Bouchet worked as an employee of Schmied. He subsequently set up his own atelier at Boulogne-sur-Seine where he also designed and printed books.” (Ward Ritchie. Art Deco. The Books of Francois-Louis Schmied, p.29).
Les Douze Cesars, 1928
SCHMIED, Francois-Louis, illustrator. Les Douze Césars. Traduction inédite de Joseph Estève. Préface de Louis Barthou de L’Académie Francaise. Paris: F.-L. Schmied, 1928. Limited to 175 copies printed on vélin d’Arches
A wonderful example of the highly appealing Schmied livre d’artiste version of Suetonius’ classic biographies of the First Twelve Roman Emperors, originally written in 121 A.D.
Julius Caesar; Augustus; Tiberius; Caligula; Claudius; Nero; Galba; Otho; Vitellius; Vespasian; Titus & Domitian
“In addition to engraved portraits of the Caesars, Schmied decorated the book with some elaborate designs in rules, printed in gold. One hundred and seventy-five copies were printed of which the first thirty copies contained suites of the illustrations in black and in color.” (Ward Ritchie. Art Deco. The Books of Francois-Louis Schmied, p.32).
SCHMIED, Francois-Louis, illustrator. KIPLING, Rudyard. Kim [translated by L. Fabulet and Ch. Fountaine-Walker]. Lausanne: Gonin et Cie, 1930. Edition limited to 160 with 30 copies signed by the publisher and with 2 additional suites of plates and illustrations (one in colours, one in black), titles in red and black, 15 woodcut plates and 15 illustrations by Schmied, all printed in colours. Kim was first published in 1900-1901 and this French translation in 1902. The supplementary suite of plates was issued in 1932.
Ruth et Booz, 1930
SCHMIED, Francois-Louis, illustrator. MARDRUS, Joseph Charles. Ruth et Booz. Paris: F.L. Schmied, 1930. Limited edition of 172 copies, signed by the artist beneath the limitation, pochoir decoration and illustration by Schmied.
Illustrated with twelve double-page and four single-page colored wood engravings. One of 155 copies printed on Madagascar paper (plus 10 for collaborators, and 7 on japon). Nasti B15. Full red morocco, bound with the pages tipped to hinges, cover with a central design after motifs in the book, tooled in gilt on inlays of black and maroon morocco, dentelles tooled in gilt and with gilt corner onlays, gold and black silk moiré endsheets, edges rough-gilt, bound by Schmied, signed on the front turn-in “F.L.S.” Chemise and new matching slipcase. Schmied bound only books of his own creation, choosing above all the books of his great years….The subjects of his designs come from the books themselves” Ray, The Art Deco Book in France, pp. 101-102.
“In the introductory note…Théo Schmied points out the natural happiness of the interconnection between his father’s cultural tendencies and art of the book and the world of the Near East as it is filtered by the ‘inspired’ Mardrus translations…throwing light on the the two fundamental aesthetic coordinates we need in order to understand how the details are made subordinate by the elegant decorative unity expressed by the plates, that is, the purity of the Egyptian graphic art and the will of the Italian primitives. The layout shows either a text harmoniously arranged in respect of double and single plates of various size, or a text framed by rules forming a variety of geometrical patterns and decorated by bout de lignes in sienna. The illustrations mainly show subdued and delicate pastel colours” – Nasti.
Peau-Brune de St. Nazaire a la Ciotat, 1931
SCHMIED, Francois-Louis, illustrator. Limited edition of 135 copies, signed by Schmied in several places.
Exquisite unpag. example of Art Deco book design, detailing a 3-month journey the artist undertook with Jean Dunand aboard the schooner Peau-Brune, sailing from St. Nazaire in Brittany, around the Iberian Peninsula and through the Strait of Gibraltar, to the town of La Ciotat on the coast of Provence, fashioned as a logbook with chronological entries related to specific dates, table of contents. Illustrated throughout with approximately 100 beautiful engravings in brilliant colors from various points along the trip, including two full-page plates depicting the ship under sail, both signed by Schmied.
Long form articles:
Catalogue Des Livres De F.-L. Schmied Exposes En Mars 1927 Chez Arnold Seligmann Rey And Co.; Suivi Du Catalogue General Des Livres De F.-L. Schmied Imprimes Et Sous Presses Au 28 Fevrier 1927
Schmied, Francois Louis
Published by F.-L. Schmied, Paris (1927)
Duncan, Alastair,Bartha, Georges De
Published by Harry N. Abrams (1989)
Published by University of Arizona, Tucson (1976)
Art Deco The Books of Francois-Louis Schmied Artist/ Engraver/ Printer
Published by Book Club of California, San Francisco, 1987
Gordon, N. Ray
Published by Dover Pubns (1986)