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Printing the Pastoral: Visions of the Countryside in 18th-Century Europe presents early and rare examples of copperplate-printed cottons, more familiarly known as toile. This textile genre 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.

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. The exhibition pairs these textiles with prints, paintings, and ceramics from the Museum’s collection that share nearly identical or closely matching bucolic imagery. 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. The exhibition is curated by Genevieve Cortinovis, Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Assistant Curator of Decorative Arts and Design, and Heather Hughes, senior research assistant and manager of the Study Room for Prints, Drawings, and Photographs.

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