01 Oct Toile de Jouy, the Fabric Symbolic of French Savoir-faire
The term ‘Toile de Jouy’ (meaning, “cloth from Jouy”) refers to the printed cotton produced by the Oberkampf textile manufactory at Jouy en Josas in Normandy from 1760 to 1843. It is most often associated with a Rococo pattern of Shepherds and shepherdesses encircled with floral garlands, usually in blue or pink, on a white background. The term is generic and encompasses a wide range of designs from Neoclassical to more generalized floral patterns.
The man behind Toile de Jouy – Christophe-Philippe Oberkampf – a manufacturer of indiennes
Toile de Jouy, symbolic of French Savoir-faire, has been adorning many houses around the world. Christophe-Philippe Oberkampf was the founder and the force behind this decorative fabric. He was born in 1738 in Germany in a family of dyers.
As I shared earlier in my article on Indiennes (Read HERE), once the European ships arrived in India, the Europeans were thrilled to find special handpainted and printed Indian cotton that was bright, colorfast, soft, and light. As compared to the silk, linen, or wool that was the only cloth regularly available in the European market at the time, the Indian cotton almost felt truly ethereal to the Europeans. Once this cotton from India was shipped to Europe, it took the European market by storm. Their demand went so high that the French government had to ban imports of these fabrics for almost 73 years to protect the local textile industry. Therefore the skilled colorists and engravers like Oberkampf from neighboring European countries became significant assets to France. Soon Oberkampf was invited to France to work for a dying company in Paris.
In 1758, when Oberkampf learned about the lifting of the ban by the French Govt, he decided to start manufacturing on his own. He chose to establish his factory in Jouy en Josas in Normandy close to the Palace of Versailles partly because it would be close to Versailles and Paris’s excellent clientele.
His factory also innovated the printing process, where initially only block printing was used, making prints in multiple colors and small motifs. Oberkampf introduced the use of copper plates that created large size monochrome motifs. He also started combining block and copper plate printing to create unique and intricate design work.
He printed scenes from the french revolution, American independence, or the scenery around his factory. He also created beautiful floral motifs. Once he recreated Napoleon’s Josephine’s Cashmere Shawl on cotton with paisley and palmettes motifs, his prints became really popular. He used his design to represent the zeitgeist. This sense of design was one other reason for the success of his creations.
Oberkampf collaboration with Jean-Baptiste Huet
Jean-Baptiste Huet was a versatile artist and extremely successful decorative painter in France. His collaboration with Oberkampf resulted in some of the most iconic toile de Jouy work. According to the Bulletin of the Needle and Bobbin Club, “of all the artists who have designed for printing on cotton, no one has brought to this decorative art so much charm and devotion as Jean- Baptiste Huet. For twenty-eight years, through all the political upheavals and social changes of the period, he drew cartoons for the cotton printed at the Oberkampf factory at Jouy”
The Toile de Jouy Empire of Oberkampf
By 1805 their workforce totaled 1,322. Jouy printing has created more than 30,000 designs over the years, many by Jean-Baptiste Huet, some by Jean-Honoré Fragonard and François Boucher. In 1787, Oberkampf was knighted by Louis XVI. In 1806 he was decorated by Napoleon on-site with the Cross of the Legion of Honour. By the eve of the French Revolution, Oberkampf’s business was the second biggest in France in terms of capital, surpassed only by Saint Gobain.
Oberkampf, with his excellent business acumen and tasteful design sense, proved to be a successful design entrepreneur. He catered to all the clients, from the Royal clientele to the ordinary people. He set up an efficient mail-order system, catering to clients from as far away as Constantinople, Copenhagen, Lisbon, London, and Amsterdam.
Christophe-Philippe Oberkampf died in 1815, the year the Empire collapsed. Soon the craze of Indiennes waned, although his son tried his best to keep the legacy going for almost 28 years. In 1843 the factory closed down, and its buildings were torn down soon after.. Oberkampf left behind him great designs and an immortal name for Toile de Jouy.
Sharing some images of Modern interpretations of Toile de Jouy
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Nidhi Garg Allen is an alumnus of Parsons School of Design and Adjunct Professor at the Fashion Institute of Technology. She is a technologist turned artisan entrepreneur and the founder and CEO of Marasim. Marasim based in NYC is committed to preserving artisanal textiles that make use of regional techniques without uprooting craftspeople from their native communities