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Toiles de Jouy (English version)

Dernière mise à jour : 10 avr. 2020



More than 150 years after the closure of the Manufacture de Jouy-en-Josas (Yvelines), created by Oberkampf in 1760, the term Toiles de Jouy has become a common name: it evokes these canvases printed in red, blue, green or gray, with patterns with figures, with pastoral or ancient country subjects. History of printed fabrics The printing of plant motifs on canvas is very old. It was in India, a large producer of cotton fabrics, that we discovered from the first centuries of dyes resistant to washing, and the means of engraving intaglio or in relief for the printing of cheap fabrics. From the Middle Ages, these cotton fabrics were exported across the Orient, then the Middle East and arrived in the 17th century on European markets. They are used for dresses and furnishings. Around 1660 we see them in fairs around Paris, known for their commercial importance. They please for their lightness, the gaiety of their colors and their patterns and satisfy the taste of exoticism of women, fashionable after the embassy of the king of Persia in France in 1686. But in 1686, a decree of the Council of State, proclaimed the prohibition of painted cotton fabrics, with the importation and the manufacture, to protect the factories of silk, wool, flax and hemp. Decrees order the destruction of the woodcuts necessary for printing on fabric. This prohibition occurring shortly after the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes, forced into exile or underground, many craftsmen, many of whom are from the Gard and Protestants. It promotes the creation in Switzerland - in particular in the canton of Neuchâtel - of Indian factories, the most famous of which is that of Bied. Smuggling is growing and, despite the ban, clandestine manufacturing is being organized. Little by little the repression diminishes. Madame de Pompadour wears Indian clothes and uses them to cover the furniture of her Bellevue chateau; it contributes to the general authorization to print on fabrics which was granted in 1759. Many factories opened in a hurry collapsed, for lack of skilled workers to make them work, except in Alsace where the seniorage quickly proved to be a very active market. Christophe-Philippe Oberkampf (1738-1815), first trained by his father in Aarau in Switzerland, then at Koechlin-Dollfus in Mulhouse, a city not yet reunited with France, then arrives at the home of M. Cottin, engraver in Paris. In 1760, knowing all the techniques of printing on canvas, he chose to settle outside Paris, in Jouy-en-Josas, near Versailles, on the banks of the Bièvre. He founded a canvas printing factory there which became important and renowned. After Oberkampf's death, production continued with his son Émile, who sold the company in 1822 to Jacques Juste Barbet, known as "de Jouy". He closed the factory in 1843 after 83 years of canvas printing. It is above all the beauty and variety of the printed patterns, in one or more colors, which made Jouy famous; these are floral motifs in seedlings or garlands, the design of which is the work of designers attached to the factory or outside: motifs with characters, gallant scenes from fashionable novels, children's games, animals from fables of Fountain. This decorative repertoire continues to evolve thanks to excellent artists, some of whom were known painters: Chardin then Heim and Demarne and especially Jean-Baptiste Huet (1745-1811). At the time of the fashion for cashmere, the prints taking up these oriental patterns compete with the silks that are too expensive for the majority of women. At the end of the 18th century, contemporary scenes appeared on the canvases: the American Revolutionary War, Federation Day, the first balloon flight. From 1797, the mythological and ancient subjects multiply. From 1807, the factory produced canvases with architectural motifs, notably Egyptian, on drawings by J. B. Huet. Today, the term Jouy canvas is still known and Jouy's drawings keep their place in the decorative arts and continue to be reproduced. Improved printing techniques Oberkampf has always been committed to the quality of the fabrics he printed and he never wanted to deviate from the "good complexion" that characterizes prints that resist washing. Printing on fabric requires several operations, and it is the good order and care with which they take place, which ensure that the fabrics printed in Jouy the color fastness, which has contributed to their renown.

The pieces of canvas are first beaten, washed, bleached to make them lose their finish, then dried in an oven. Lying on a table, the canvas receives the application of engraved wooden boards, coated with color: as many colors, as much wood, regularly moved to repeat the drawing. The inexpensive wooden planks allow a wide variety of patterns to be produced in small series. Once the colors have been printed, the piece of canvas is thoroughly rinsed, so that the "bite" of the color does not attack the canvas. It is then dried on the meadows. Informed by his brother of the use, at a competitor in Switzerland, of copper planks for printing, Oberkampf begins, from 1770, to use this technique which gives a drawing of greater finesse than wood. Oberkampf sends his nephew Samuel Widmer to learn from the chemist Claude Louis Berthollet (1748-1822). He discovered the bleaching properties of chlorine. This invention was applied in Jouy in 1793 for the whitening of fabrics before they were printed. From 1797, the use of the copper roller, engraved in hollow, allows a much faster printing. Another improvement took place from 1800 with the machine for automatically engraving cylinders and copper plates. Oberkampf continues to increase the production capacity of its Jouy factory and to introduce technical innovations. He buys canvas samples from his competitors in France and abroad. It’s about keeping him one step ahead of them. In 1805, he printed drawings in white on canvas dyed in advance using a bite which removes the color. This process is particularly suitable for cylinder printing. In 1810, Samuel Widmer discovered the solid green of a single application that replaced the impression of blue and then yellow. It also introduces steam heating of the dye tanks. Protestant museum


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