If you’ve ever been to Paris, then you may be familiar with the street and metro stop Oberkampf in the 11th arrondissement. This metro stop is named for the eighteenth century fabric manufacturer Christophe-Philippe Oberkampf (1738-1815), the founder of Toile de Jouy, a well-known pattern in wallpapers, fabrics, and other decorative arts.
Hired from Switzerland in 1758 to work in Paris as a colorist and engraver for the cotton manufacturer Sieur Cottin, Oberkampf set out on his own a year later choosing the small town of Jouy-en-Josas to set up his manufactory, a short distance from the promise of Versailles’s clientele, yet close enough to Paris for the masses. Specializing in the highly valued (and formerly banned) Indian cottons, or indiennes as they were called in France, he sought perfection in his innovations with dyes and designs. He created more than 30,000 different designs, ranging from simple floral motifs, to Egyptian styles, as well as displays of eighteenth century French country life. In 1787, Louis XVI had Oberkampf knighted due to his influential designs of the genre scenes of French country living that were so dear to his wife Marie Antoinette. The later cashmere shawls worn by Josephine de Beauharnais were reproduced on Jouy cottons with their paisley and palmette motifs, the latter inspired by her husband’s Egyptian campaign at the end of the 18th century.
By the year 1800 he had revolutionized the printing process, changing from the traditional wood block and copper plate methods for monochromes and designs to the mechanized process of the copper roller. Further decorations continued to be presented to him for his famous prints that had for many years dominated French fashion. In 1806 he was decorated by Napoleon himself on the site of his manufactory with the Cross of the Legion of Honor.
His monochrome scenes often can be read like a history book and, like all art, create a window into the different styles and fashions of the day. Included in his different commemorative prints, in particular, are scenes of the first ever hot air balloons, the American Independence, and moments from the French Revolution that include the anniversary of the storming of the Bastille.
Further exceptional motifs also include scenes from Greek mythology, chinoiseries, the Fables of La Fontaine, the monuments of Paris, Rome, and Egypt, and even popular operas of the time. Known throughout Europe in his day, Oberkampf was a man ahead of his time. Christophe-Philippe Oberkampf died in 1815, the year the Empire of Napoleon collapsed. His son Émile attempted to keep the company alive during the change of regime as best he could. Unfortunately, by 1843 the reputed style of Toile de Jouy had waned and the decline in its desirability had faded. The manufactory closed its doors that same year. However, the lasting effect of his designs and prints would be imitated for generations to come.
Take a look at our very own exceptional Toile viewable on our website: