There is more to the 18th-century Lyonnais artist’s painting than meets the eye.
Jean Pillement (1728-1808), Paysage au pont sur la rivière traversant une vallée avec villageois et leurs bêtes (Landscape with a bridge over a river in a valley with villagers and their animals), 1787, signed and dated oil on canvas, 48.5 x 63.5 cm/19.09 x 25 in.
This is as classic a view as the 18th-century school can offer: an imaginary landscape featuring mountains, water, a bridge and villagers herding their animals. However, like several other artists towards the end of the Ancien Régime, especially regional ones such as Charles de Lacroix and Jean-Baptiste Lallemand, Jean Pillement added a touch that prefigured Romanticism: a misty mood and glowing light. Pillement had many talents. Although labeled a Lyon painter, he was one of the greatest voyagers of his time. He trained with Paris illustrator Daniel Sarrabat before traveling to Lisbon, London, Vienna, Poland and Russia. At the time, he was the painter of King Stanislas II. But the artist did not neglect Paris, where he exhibited at the 1776 Salon and became the painter of Queen Marie-Antoinette. His chinoiseries were held in high regard and decorated many salons, much like the tapestries from the Gobelins workshops, with which he collaborated on several occasions. At the dawn of Louis XVI’s reign, Pillement abandoned the rococo style for classicism and pre-Romantic landscapes.