By DARLA MCCAMMON
Lakeland Art Association
WARSAW — Chinoiserie came about in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries when Europeans became enthralled with art of the Chinese culture and other Eastern Asian countries. The French word for Chinese is Chinois. The lure of the exotic orient flowed into European homes and estates through designs on wallpapers, scenes on porcelain, pottery pieces, and even furniture that had been “japanned.”
Because Chinoiserie became a status symbol for the wealthy in Europe, items were in high demand and a confusing mixture of artifacts from what we now call the Middle East arrived but were all lumped into one main category: oriental art. Thus you will find chinoiserie a mixture of not only Chinese and Japanese art, but often the additional items added from the cultures of the Indian or Persian areas.
Chinoiserie became most popular with the increased trade in the height of the eighteenth century along with the adoption by European artists and designers of the Rococo style. Voltaire helped pique interest in the oriental in his Art de la Chine “The fact remains that four thousand years ago, when we did not know how to read, they [the Chinese] knew everything essentially useful of which we boast today.” Work by Francois Boucher and Thomas Chippendale were heavily influenced by the oriental designs. Chinese and Indian goods were anxiously awaited on annual journeys by the many vessels of the East India Companies. Wealthy kings and queens decorated lavishly with these products and also ordered their designers to copy the style so nothing clashed.
Chinoiserie was not relegated to Europe however; it also became a great influence in Latin America when the Portuguese ships of trade delivered products such as lacquer, textiles and Chinese porcelain pieces to eager markets in South and Central America. Talavera pottery created at Puebla de Los Angeles is thought to have been inspired largely by the designs on these products. Chinoiserie never died out but did decline in popularity after the eighteenth century. But even here in the United States a revival of its popularity was seen during the 1920s and beyond.
Chinoiserie is still very fashionable and we often see it in fabrics, clothing, art work and furniture. Antique pieces such as this Vienna porcelain jug now on display in a museum draw much attention and are considered rare and valuable. If you have time, put Chinoiserie in a search window and you will find many more wonderful bits of information about the influence this has had on art and all our lives.
Brenda Stichter art continues this month at Warsaw City Hall Gallery 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Stichter has just been notified of acceptance into a very prestigious national art competition, so keep an eye on this column for developments in this career artist.
The September featured artist at Lakeland Art Gallery exhibition will be “Sarah Creason and others inspired by her.” Creason is amazing both as an artist and as a person you would love to know. Be sure to visit her exhibit and see her work along with items she has influenced that are done by her friends.
Elkhart County competition is now open with $30,000 in prizes. Contact Midwest Museum of American Art, Elkhart.