Marin Montagut is Drawing from the Past

Ambroise Tézenas

Montagut’s antiques-inspired illustrations are popping up everywhere from walls to books.

A venomous snake curled around a vine, a veiled court jester wearing a suit of diamond color blocks, a self-portrait of the artist riding a tiger and playing a ukulele—Marin Montagut’s illustrations are bright bits of whimsy, marrying a traditional art form with a Wes Anderson aesthetic. They’re also sweeping the design world. The 33-year-old Frenchman has recently collaborated with Pierre Frey on a collection of wallpapers informed by 18th-century engravings of Parisian gardens; designed cashmere blankets, pillows, and shawls for Saved NY; and coauthored a book with designer Inès de la Fressange, to be published by Flammarion in September, about their favorite Parisian apartments, including Montagut’s own. Each illustration, whether woven in cashmere or drawn on a page, is inspired by what once inspired Montagut’s family: antiques.

Montagut calls them les curiosités—objects found on his travels around the globe—and they fill the picturesque studio in Normandy where he spends most weekends. Kilim rugs line the wood floors; sculpted candles from Lisbon are shelved next to glass beakers and framed taxidermied butterflies. “My father, my mother, my grandparents were antiques dealers. When you are a teenager, you’re not very interested in what your parents do. I tried to find something else.”

Montagut's illustrations for fashion label Comptoir des Cotonniers. Ambroise Tézenas

He did find another job, many jobs—he worked as an assistant on French cinema and TV productions and as a documentary filmmaker and editor, creating videos for brands like Diptyque and Roger Vivier. “But I felt frustrated. I wanted to be somewhere with a piece of paper, a pencil, to come back to something more primary. More elementary.” Montagut decided to design a pocket-sized map guide and started with Bonjour Paris, which featured insider tips accompanied by charming illustrations. The map was a hit, and Montagut has since gone on to create versions for London and New York.

But collecting will always be in his blood. When he’s not rummaging through flea markets in Normandy and Paris for himself, Montagut is looking for things to sell on his own website. “I need to be surrounded by antiques,” he says. “When I start a new project, I can’t work in a white cube. I need all of my favorite babies around me.”