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Printing the Pastoral: Visions of the Countryside in 18th-Century Europe

The Saint Louis Art Museum will present Printing the Pastoral: Visions of the Countryside in 18th-Century Europe, a free exhibition examining the early development of one of the most recognizable textile genres: copperplate-printed cotton, popularly known as toile.

Toile has remained popular since its inception more than 250 years ago, when technological advances allowed textile printers to exploit the type of copperplates long used by artists to print on paper. Artisans were then able to create nuanced, intricate designs, and their creativity flourished.

The emergence of copperplate-printed textiles coincided with the taste for scenes of country life and other pastoral imagery in Europe. Middle- and upper-class audiences clamored for fabrics patterned with idyllic scenes of shepherds, ladies on swings, amorous couples and village celebrations. Textile printers responded, drawing inspiration from a wide variety of sources.

This exhibition reveals the nostalgia for pastoral themes common to 18th-century textile consumers and art collectors by pairing furnishing fabrics, ceramics, and paintings with prints by—or after—Rembrandt van Rijn, Nicolaes Berchem, Paulus Potter, Jean-Honoré Fragonard and François Boucher. A featured object in Printing the Pastoral is a reconstructed bed, complete with coverlet and curtains, that illustrates the visual impact of these innovative fabrics in the 18th-century home.

Printing the Pastoral includes a number of textiles never before exhibited at the museum, including a recent gift of printed cottons from Richard and Suellen Meyer and a loan from the Missouri History Museum of an important early English copperplate-printed textile.
Relevant research areas: Western Europe, 18th Century, Engraving

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