The Story of Toile
Toile de Jouy, which is often shortened to “Toile,” (pronounced “twall”), loosely translates from the French as “linen cloth or a canvas upon which to paint”. Created in Ireland in the mid-18th century, it became enormously popular in both Britain and France, and over time has become an essential classic style.
Once the East India Company brought inexpensive cotton goods to the European consumer market in the 1600s, there was no stopping the public’s passion for it. Even bans on cotton levied to protect local textile industries were ineffective and ultimately lifted.
It was Christophe-Philippe Oberkampf’s factory in France at Jouy-en-Josas, which began manufacturing toile with thousands of design offerings, some commissioned from leading artists of the time. This is what made the Oberkampf factory legendary and one of the most important manufacturers of the time. The phrase “Toile de Jouy” translates as cloth from the French town of “Jouy-en-Josas” for this reason.
European court royalty’s love of toile also assisted in making this print style as famous as the influencers themselves. The patterning of toile is most often a complex pastoral scenic or an arrangement of florals in a single color, done in a repeat against a solid ground.
Brought along to the Americas, Toile was very popular in the Colonial era and is the dominant pattern motif for preservationists and restoration interiors of that era. The Colonial Revival trend of the 1930s also created a resurgence of toile, as did the United States Bicentennial celebration of the mid-seventies.
Many of these romantic, idyllic scenes are as appealing now as ever, with elegant, traditional forms and historic prints that never go out of style. Today, a new generation of designers is taking on custom patterns and print-on-demand wallpapers for cultural identities and specific locals. Only time will tell where toile will go next.
| Posted on August 30 2021