Friday, December 17, 2010


Jean-Baptiste Pillement ~ A couple on a boat departing from a shore where a child stands

One of the most influential decorative and ornamental draughtsmen working in Europe in the second half of the 18th century, Jean Pillement was an equally gifted painter, producing pastoral landscapes, marines, flowerpieces, animal subjects and chinoiseries.

A pupil of Daniel Sarrabat in Lyon, Pillement was a precocious talent and, by the age of fifteen, was working as a designer at the Gobelins tapestry factory in Paris.

In 1745, aged seventeen, he left France for Spain.

He was to spend three years in Madrid, and this was to be the first in a long series of travels throughout Europe over the next forty years.

After a period spent working in Lisbon, where he was offered, and declined, the title of Painter to the King, Pillement spent the next few years working in London, between 1754 and 1762.

His pastoral scenes, seascapes and picturesque views found an appreciative audience in England. A popular and respected member of artistic society in London, he counted among his patrons the influential connoisseur and actor David Garrick.

It was in England in the late 1750’s that some of his ornamental designs were first engraved and published - Pillement himself recorded that more than three hundred prints after his drawings were done while he was working in London - and where he established himself as a fashionable decorative painter.

Pillement continued to travel extensively during the 1760’s, receiving several prestigious commissions.

After returned briefly to Paris in 1761, he spent some time in Italy before travelling to Vienna, where he worked to develop a method of printing coloured designs on textiles.

He executed ten paintings for the Kaiserhof in Vienna for the Prince of Liechtenstein and was ap¬pointed court painter to King Stanislas August Poniatowski of Poland, for whom he decorated rooms in the Royal Castle and the palace of Ujazdów in Waraw between 1765 and 1767.

Back in France and appointed peintre de la reine in 1778, Pillement painted three decorative canvases for Marie Antoinette’s Petit Trianon at Versailles; the only real instance in his long career of an official French commission.

For much of the 1780’s he worked in Portugal - where he founded a school of drawing - and Spain, and it was during this period that he produced some of his finest landscape drawings.

Returning to France in 1789, he abandoned Paris during the Revolution and spent much of the decade of the 1790’s working in the small town of Pezénas in the southern province of Languedoc.

The last years of Pillement’s career found the artist in his native Lyon, where he was employed at the Manufacture de Soie et des Indiennes and gave lessons in decoration and design.

He died in poverty in Lyon in 1808, at the age of eighty, his output having suffered from the decline of the French taste for the rococo in the aftermath of the Revolution.

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