On my journeys abroad I have always tried to visit the major public galleries, such as the Prado in Madrid, the Louvre in Paris and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York but I have never ever visited private galleries which I suppose could be termed “selling” galleries. I have always thought I would feel slightly uncomfortable looking around the paintings knowing I had no intention of buying a work. I did visit the Schiele Exhibition at the private Richard Nagy Gallery in London last week but that was advertised as an exhibition even though six of the paintings could have been bought by a viewer. I was told the six on sale ranged between £280,000 and £3 million so that kind of put them out of my price range! After leaving the gallery I was walking down Old Bond Street and happened upon another private gallery, Colnaghi, which according to the notice in the window had a small collection of Old Master Paintings. I went in and asked if I could look around and they told me I could and I walked into their one main room which was probably about 20 metres square and hung on the walls were about twenty exquisite paintings. I was the only person in the room and I could take my time to study these beautiful works of art. The next time I return to London for a visit I will go to that Mayfair area and try and visit some of the other private galleries and see what other hidden gems are waiting to be discovered.
My featured artist today is Jean-Baptiste Pillement, the French artist, engraver and designer who was born in Lyon in 1728 and is best known for his Rococo style of painting and the engravings done after his drawings. He was also well-known for his chinoiserie theme in many of his paintings and designs. Chinoiserie being a French term for an artistic style which reflects Chinese influences. His beautiful designs were used in porcelain and pottery as well as textile manufacture. He became one of the most talented French landscape painters of the period. His extensive travels throughout Europe gave him an opportunity to build a large portfolio of en plein-air drawings which he would later convert into beautiful landscape paintings. Pillement was influenced by painters such as Francesco Zuccarelli, the great Italian Rococo painter, and Francois Boucher, the French painter and proponent of Rococo taste, who in the eighteenth century made pastoral paintings very popular.
When he was fifteen years old he moved to Paris and worked at the Gobelin factory which was a family run firm of dyers and manufacturers of tapestries. Two years later he travelled to Spain to work as both a designer and painter and remained in the country for five years. From there at the age of twenty-two he moved to Portugal and in 1754, aged twenty-six he travelled to London. Whilst in England Pillement concentrated on landscape painting and soon he discovered a ready market for his quality works and the great English thespian, David Garrick became an avid collector of his work.
He left England in 1756 and journeyed around Europe. He was employed as an artist at the Court of Marie Theresa and Francis I in Vienna. In Warsaw he was commissioned to decorate the Royal Castle and the Ujazdowski Castle. Wherever he went, whether it be St Petersburg, Milan or Rome he received lucrative commissions for his work and in Paris he worked for Marie Antoinette in the Petit Trianon. In 1800 he returned to his birthplace, Lyon where he carried on painting, teaching at the local Academy and designing for the local silk industry. Unfortunately for him the Rococo genre was losing its popularity with the onset of the French Revolution and his commissions became less and less. Due to his past association with matters royal, he was forced to seek refuge in the south of France, in the town of Pézenas. There he remained for ten years. It was during that time that he created some of his most admired works of art. The last ten years of his life he spent in Lyon until his death in 1808, at the age of 80.
My Daily Art Display for today is a painting which I saw at the Colnaghi Gallery entitled Autumn which Pillement completed in 1792. This sun-drenched landscape has a feel of the 17th century Dutch Italianate paintings of Nicolaes Berchem and Jan Both and the French master of Arcadian landscape paintings, Claude Lorrain. The romantic sensitivity of the painting probably emanates from his alpine travels and his contact with landscape painters such as Philippe de Loutherbourg. Landscapes like this one by Pillement were very popular at the time, especially the sets of paintings showing the countryside during the different seasons. Pillement painted a “companion” picture to go with today’s featured painting entitled Winter which was also present at the Colnaghi gallery.