Nouvelle Suitte de Cahiers chinois…a l’usage des déssinateurs et des Peintres
Working primarily within the realms of painting and the decorative arts, Jean-Baptiste Pillement achieved much of his fame through the dissemination of prints made after his designs. The artist’s strategic use of print media gave draftsmen, artisans and manufacturers access to his designs in order to incorporate them into ceramics, textiles, silverwares, and other decorative objects. The resultant accessibility of Pillement’s designs made him one of the most important arbiters of taste in 18th-century society. Anne Allen served as Pillement’s primary printmaker after the two met in the 1770s, and her incredible skill distinguishes her works from the host of etchings that Pillement commissioned after his designs over the course of his lifetime.
Allen’s position as a woman artist in the 18th-century makes her a fascinating figure in her own right, and her innovative use of color, part of a widespread experimentation with color printmaking in France during the era, demonstrates her technical expertise. Nouvelle Suitte de Cahiers chinois…is one of nine series that Allen created for Pillement, and the set is a stunning example of printing à la poupée, a technique in which each color is individually dabbed onto the appropriate part of the composition on a single plate. The setis quintessential chinoiserie, a style characterized by whimsical Oriental designs that was popular during the French Rococo, and demonstrates the influence of Chinese woodblock prints. The popularity of chinoiserie in France, coupled with the style’s use of foreign source material, indicates a dynamic cross-cultural connection between East and West that helps to elucidate 18th century concerns with exoticism and cultural importation.
Rachel Spaulding ’11
Student Curatorial Assistant