1728 Lyon - 1808
Canvas, a pair
Both 55,2 x 78,7 cm
Both signed and dated lower left: Jean Pillement 1792
Jean-Baptiste Pillement was among the most influential decorative draughtsmen in Europe in the second half of the eighteenth century. He also became one of the most accomplished French landscape painters of the period. His travels in Portugal, Italy and the South of France provided him with a large portfolio of plein-air drawings upon which he drew for his vivid reconstructions of the Mediterranean countryside. This charming pair of landscapes also reveal the influence of other artists, such as Francesco Zuccarelli, with whose work Pillement would have been acquainted when in London in the 1750’s, and François Boucher, who popularized the pastoral tradition in France in the eighteenth century. There is also a clear debt to Dutch Italianate artists such as Nicolaes Berchem, evident particularly in the sun-drenched atmosphere of Autumn, while Winter perhaps, shows the influence of the picturesque snowscapes of the Bolognese eighteenth century master Francesco Foschi.
In the eighteenth century there was a considerable vogue for landscapes showing contrasting seasons or times of the day. This pair can be compared, for example, to Morning and Evening, a pair of landscapes by Pillement dated 1794, formerly with Colnaghi, which came from the collection of the Countess Moira Rossi de Montelara. Pillement produced his first sets of landscapes in the mid 1750’s, during his English period. Undoubtedly the enthusiasm, which the English showed for his work, gave a major impetus to his landscape painting. Another important factor was print publishing, which did much to popularise his paintings both in England and in France.
In 1757 engravings by James Mason of his Amusements du Printemps were published in London. This was followed two years later by two companion engravings by Pierre Charles Canot after the Pillement drawings, Les Douceurs de l’Automne and Les Plaisirs de l’Hiver, both published in London and distributed in Paris by Charles Leviez. Finally, in 1760, the last of Pillement’s Four Seasons, les Agréments de l’Eté, was engraved by William Woollett. Later in his career, between the 1770’s and the 1790’s, Pillement returned to the theme of landscapes of the seasons with an enhanced feeling for the sublime, attributable perhaps to his alpine travels and his contact with Romantic landscape painters such as Philippe de Loutherbourg. His romantic sensitivity to nature is evident in this atmospheric pair of landscapes painted in 1792.
Born into a family of painters and a student of Daniel Sarrabat in Lyon, Pillement began work at an early age for the Gobelins factory. By 1745 he had already embarked on the far-reaching series of travels, which was to characterize his adult life. He left France for Madrid in 1745 and visited Lisbon before spending the 1750’s in London. The following decade he made brief visits to Turin, Rome and Milan before traveling to Vienna (1763-64) and Warsaw (1765-67). Pillement then returned to London, where he sold seventy of his landscapes at Christie’s on 13 April 1774. He revisited Paris in 1778 before traveling, via Avignon, to the Iberian Peninsula. He was in Portugal from 1780 to 1786.
He was official painter not only to Queen Marie-Antoinette of France but also to the Polish King, Stanislas Auguste. He counted among his British clients, the actor David Garrick, for whose villa in Ham he supplied chinoiserie decorations, whilst Thomas Chippendale supplied the furniture. During his sojourn in Vienna, his landscapes were in great demand by the Prince of Liechtenstein. His last years were spent at Pezenas and Lyons, where he died at the age of eighty in poverty; a victim of the decline of the French Rococo taste in the aftermath of the Revolution.
Pillement was also one of the most influential decorators of the eighteenth century; his chinoiseries, arabesques and flower paintings provided elegant leitmotifs for furniture makers, tapestry weavers and, particularly in his latter years, for the Manufacture de Soie et des Indiennes in Lyon.
Private Collection, France