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Was born in Otley, York-shire, 1718 and died in London in 1779. Chippendale was an only child, born into a family of Yorkshire carpenters. Details of his early career are unknown but in 1748, aged 30, he moved to London where he set up as a cabinet-maker, married and had a large family. In 1754 he published The Gentleman and Cabinet-Maker’s Director, a pattern book that was to secure his position as one of the most eminent cabinet-makers of the 18th century. Chippendale’s workshop was on St Martins Lane, the newly fashionable centre of the furniture making trade in London. From there he undertook many large-scale furnishing projects for grand houses throughout Britain.
Breakthrough. In the 18th century there was an increasing demand for luxury goods. Chippendale’s Director provided for this market with 160 engravings of fashionable furniture designs.
Published by subscription, The Director was an instant success. It was reissued in 1755, and again in 1762 with additional plates in the new Neo-classical style. Subscribers included aristocrats and cabinet-makers. Shrewd publicity brought Chippendale many lucrative commissions. His firm supplied all manner of furnishings and household equipment.
The Director was the principal inspiration behind the characteristic mahogany furniture of the mid-18th century, and Chippendale’s designs were used, often in greatly simplified form, by innumerable provincial and rural craftsmen. The most distinguished furniture produced from the Chippendale work-shops, however, was the handsome marquetry pieces inspired by the neoclassic designs of Robert Adam. It was for many years hotly debated whether Chippendale ever actually made furniture to the architect’s designs, but that he did so is conclusively proved by Chippendale’s bill of July 9, 1765, for the supply to Sir Lawrence Dundas of armchairs and sofas which correspond exactly to an Adam design dated 1765. It appears that henceforth Chippendale absorbed the Adam manner so successfully that the architect had the fullest confidence in leaving the design of movable articles to Chippendale, who supplied furniture in the neoclassic style to Harewood House, Newbey Hall, and Nostell Priory, all in Yorkshire, and to other houses with which Adam was concerned.
Until tomorrow: Education begins the gentleman, but reading, good company and reflection must finish him.