European interpretations of Chinese and East Asian culture during the 17th and 18th century was known as Chinoiserie, although the style was more often associated with fantasy and invention than historical accuracy.
Chinoiserie, from the French word “chinois” is often associated with exuberance and wealth which one could argue has no place at a time like this, however in anxious times I turn to art or learning to escape. It turns out doing this blog on Chinoiserie ticked both these boxes. I hope the combination of different cultures and styles, to create something beautiful, inspires you as much as it does me.
How Chinoiserie Style Began
Chinoiserie first appeared in the 17th century and the trend grew stronger in the 18th century as trade grew with China and East Asia. I can only imagine living in the mid 1700’s in Europe and being fascinated by the exotic luxury products like porcelain, wallpaper, silk, laquerware and tea being imported.
Tea drinking served in Chinese wares became very popular despite heavy taxes imposed and doctors cautioning against it.
The imported decorative items were so sought after by the upper and middle classes that European manufacturers soon copied the design and shapes seeking to capitalise on this new trend. Many fashionable residences of the 18th century had one or two rooms in an oriental theme, with the bedroom being the most favoured.
Under the influence of Rococo, Chinoiserie objects became more whimsical with decor objects and wallpaper featuring common Chinoiserie motifs, including fanciful landscapes with exotic pagodas, birds, dragons and Chinese figures.
Some felt this to be a mockery of genuine Chinese art and architecture and it came under a lot of criticism in the second half of the 20th century, but this does not reflect the general admiration for Chinese and Middle Eastern cultures that many designers and architects felt.
I fell in love with Chinoiserie in 2014 when I saw this handpainted wallpaper at Decorex and it only grew a year later when de Gouranay showcased their exquisite wallpapers.
What is not to love about this jaw-dropping beautiful design from de Gournay? Well actually, it turns out that the Badminton design is hand-painted on gilded silk, so aside from being totally unaffordable, one hopes the silk used is cruelty free. Vegan Interiors is the future I aspire to.
Here is another beautiful design from de Gournay. Can you just imagine having a room like this?
Where is Chinoiserie Going
The impact of the coronavirus is so devastating that we could see a return to a new version of Modernism which arose from the first world war. There is no doubt going forward we will face hardships but I hope it will lead to a greater appreciation of sustainable items created by artists and artisans.
Creativity and working to combine different cultures in a beautiful and sustainable way is the only way we can move forward. This image from Salone del Mobile really inspired me.
If wallpaper on all the walls is not for you then you may be inspired by these Chinoiserie panels making a statement.
Chinoiserie can also be introduced in smaller artworks like this beautiful painting by Kimberly Potts. If watching the news is bringing you down then why not bring out the paints and create something beautiful to escape.