Découpage Guild of NSW - History

The History of Découpage

The word Découpage comes from the French word découper to cut. Over time it has come to refer to the decorative art of applying paper cutouts to a surface. The origins of the craft are diverse, with fine paper cutting accepted as a tradition in many countries.

It is thought that the growth of popularity of Découpage in eighteenth century Europe can be traced to Italy where artisans developed the technique known as lacca povera to compete with the fine lacquer work imported from China and Japan. Throughout the eighteenth century the craft grew in sophistication and eventually found its way even into the royal courts. Hand coloured engravings of the day — done by artists such as Boucher, Pillement, Watteau and Englebrecht — were cut out and pasted onto walls, furniture and other household objects and buried under many coats of finish.

This technique of Découpage spread through Europe to England where it was called japanning, to France where it was distinguished by very intricate cutting of delicate motifs, and to many other countries including Portugal, Poland and Belgium. The style of Découpage which derives from this period is now termed classic or traditional Découpage.

Découpage enjoyed a revival in Victorian England with a style that was more ornate and three-dimensional, using embossed, pre-coloured images and gold paper braid that was made possible by the growth in relatively cheap and accessible printing. The style of découpage, now referred to as Victoriana, was popular in Germany where it was sometimes used to decorate furniture.

There was another popular revival of Découpage in the mid-twentieth century, usually attributed to Hiram Manning in the USA. Manning and his followers revived many of the designs and techniques of eighteenth century Découpage, but over time twentieth century découper's have developed both the designs and methods of creating Découpage.

The vast array of printed materials and mediums available today have enabled practitioners of Découpage to experiment with techniques which, combined with new technology, produce exciting and innovative work. Découpage today has something for everyone. The only limit is your imagination!

Découpage Guild of NSW

Guild of New South Wales Inc.

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