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Pillement was a painter and designer, known for his exquisite and
delicate landscapes, but whose importance lies primarily in the
engravings done after his drawings and their influence in spreading the
Rococo* style, and particularly the taste for chinoiserie, throughout Europe.
Pillement, born in Lyon, had an unusually cosmopolitan career. He
moved from Paris, working for the Gobelin* factory. After a brief spell
at the Gobelins, in 1745 he left for Madrid. He stayed there for three
years, and his work was much appreciated both in Spain and in Portugal,
which he visited often. He supervised sets of Rococo singeries* and
chinoiseries* painted for Quinta de Alegria, the house at Seteais, near
Sintra, of the Dutch consul in Lisbon, Jan Gildemeester, and soon after
he was offered the title of Painter to the King. He declined this honour
and instead travelled to London.
Pillement spend eight years in England, fully exploiting the English
taste for landscapes. There the paintings by Nicolaes Berchem inspired
him. During his years in England, Pillement had enjoyed excellent
relations with his English patrons, engravers and publishers. His
drawings were frequently engraved in London for Rococo pattern books,
and in 1767 an influential collection of prints of his decorative, genre
and landscape subjects was published as One Hundred and Thirty Figures and Ornaments and Some Flowers in the Chinese Style. This and other pattern books were widely used by
textile designers. Pillement came acquainted with David Garrick, a
famous actor, and his Austrian wife Eva Maria Weigel, collectors of his
work in England. Pillement went to Vienna, and in 1765 he went to Warsaw,
decorating the Royal Castle in Warsaw and the Ujazdowski Castle, his
largest project, commissioned by Stanislaw August Poniatowski. He also
worked in Saint Petersburg, the Piedmont, Milan, Rome, and Venice.
Pillement travelled to Paris to work for Marie Antoinette in the Petit
During the French Revolution in 1789 Pillement moved to Pézenas in
the Languedoc. At the end of his life he went back to Lyon, where he
designed for the silk industry and gave lessons in the Academy founded
Pillement's illustrations are a mixture of fantastic birds, flora & fauna, large human figures and chinoiserie.
His designs were used by engravers and decorators on porcelain and
pottery, but also on textiles, wallpaper and silver. Pillement had
discovered in 1764 a new method of printing on silk with fast colours
(recorded in his Memoirs).
Works by Pillement are held in the following collections:
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston;
National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C; Cleveland Museum of Art, Ohio;
Courtauld Institute of Art, London; Philadelphia Museum of Art, amongst others.
Sphinx Fine Art
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