Today is the 300th Anniversary of Thomas Chippendale's birth. Born in Otley, North Yorkshire in 1718 into a family of cabinet- makers he became Britain's most influential cabinet-maker and designer of all time.
The defining moment of Chippendale's career was the publication of The Genteman and Cabinet-Maker's Director in 1754. This pattern book became the most influential book of furniture designs in the Eighteenth Century and secured Chippendale's position as the pre-eminent Georgian cabinet-maker. The success of the Director is reflected in it being republished in 1755 and again in 1762 with additional Neoclassical designs.
Chippendale's workshops were at 60-62 St. Martin's Lane in the heart of London's fashionable centre for the Georgian cabinet-making trade. It was Chippendale's ability to promote his business via the Director and mercantile connections that enabled him to secure several significant commissions ahead of his competitors such as Samuel Smith (Dumfries House) and Mayhew and Ince.
Chippendale's first significant commission was at Dumfries House in Scotland were he supplied over 50 pieces of furniture ranging from Rococo China cabinet (probably the most valuable piece of English Georgian furniture) to a partner's desk and elegant Gainsborough armchairs. However perhaps the most interesting aspect of Dumfries House was the influence Chippendale had on two Scottish craftsmen Alexander Peter and William Mathie. Alexander Peter in particular directly quoted from the Director in the pieces he supplied to the house and it is this broader influence that made Chippendale the pre-eminent cabinet-maker in Georgian London. Illustrated below is a Chippendale period mahogany China Cabinet that reflects the craftsman's first hand knowledge of the Director.
It was the creation of easily quotable furniture vocabulary through the designs of the Director that has enabled Chippendale's style to endure and made documented examples of his work the most sought after pieces of Georgian furniture.
To learn more about events commemorating Chippendale's 300th anniversary visit the Chippendale 300 website.