August 2, 2001

Pieces of Dreams: the Art of Alice Balterman


For almost 50 years, Alice Balterman has communicated her vivid vision of whimsy and magic through the media of decoupage, assemblage and col�lage. She will present a talk and slide program about her exquisite art on Saturday, August 18, at 2 p.m. in the Huenefeld Tower Room, 3rd Floor, Main Library (800 Vine Street). An exhibit of more than three dozen of her elaborate pieces entitled Pieces of Dreams: the Art of Alice Balterman, will continue in the Art & Music Department, third floor, through September.

Artist Alice Heyn Balterman, a native Cincinnatian, attend�ed Smith College and the Art Institute of Chicago.� During a 1954 visit to Cape Cod she saw for the first time the quaint decoupage of Peter Hunt.� She realized that this was an appropriate medium for her, and through the years her work has grown more sophisticated and has evolved to include collages and assemblages.

Alice Balterman's artful syntheses of her collected objects and images, whether they're intended to be functional or purely ornamental, are unique embodiments of her memories, her views of life, and her mature craftsmanship.� More importantly, her works are emissaries from the magical domains of antique shops and books, from the aura of for�eign lands and dreams, from special moments in childhood and the history of art.�

Definition of Decoupage--The art of decorating surfaces permanently with paper cutouts.� Decoupage, as it is practiced today, is a revival of an art that flourished in 18th-century Europe.� The word comes from the French "couper"-- to cut.� It was not included in an American dictionary until 1961 when Web�ster's Third International Dictionary, Unabridged de�fined it as "The art of decorating surfaces with paper cut-outs..."

Source:� The Complete Book of Decoupage, by Frances S. Wing


Decoupage is the assembling and composing of many unrelated paper cutouts into a composite whole.� Manning on Decoupage by Hiram Manning


History of Decoupage

In the 17th century, Europeans copied designs from imported Asian lacquer.�� Long before decorating with paper cutouts came into vogue, Europeans were producing products that could be used to simulate Chinese and Japanese lacquers. Not until the 18th century did a completely unique style of painting and of decorating come into vogue, know as "chinoi�serie." It was in this century with its interest in chinoi�serie and the rococo that the art we now call decoupage flourished.


Although the word is French in origin the art apparently began in Italy. The Italian name for decoupage is: l'arte del povero or "poor man's art."� The craze for painted furniture by master painters was such that the demand greatly exceeded the supply; everyone who was anyone wanted furniture by the well-known artists.� Serge Roche, a Pari�sian dealer and an authority on Venetian lacquers, tells us that Venetian decorators of the 18th century evolved the idea of getting the effect of painted lacquer-ware by using cut-out engravings of master painters which were pasted to painted wood and then lacquered.�� The new quicker and cheaper substitute for hand painted furniture incurred the master painters' wrath because it eliminated their servic�es. They scornfully called it arte povera. This method greatly influenced the 18th-century French artists and particularly those working in the chinoiserie style.


The Ladies' Amusement Book, published in 1762, is a prime example of prints made solely for decoupage.� It contains designs by Jean Pillement, who was famous for his enchant�ing chinoiserie. During the same period in England, Mary Delaney's cut flower miniatures are utterly fantastic.� You can look at them under a microscope and still be mystified by how they could possibly have been cut or glued.


At the court of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, decoupage became a hobby.� The French queen and her court ladies snipped up original Bouchers, Watteaus, Fragonards, Pille�ments---anything they could lay their hands on to make fans, boxes, tabletops, screens, etc. After the dissolution of the guilds at the end of the 18th century, the art became virtually extinct.� Renewed inter�est in decoupage began in the early 19th century. Caroline Duer began the art at that time designing some of the most beautiful pieces in existence.


During the latter part of the 1900s, die cutting and embossing made colored scrapbook pictures easy to use and very popular.� About this time gold foil was embossed and die-cut in the same manner. These companion materials were produced in Germany.� They were used in Germany on furni�ture---generally the embossed cutouts were pasted together in geometric shapes---following the contours of the furni�ture.� Biedermeier furniture was the style most frequently used.� The English used scrapbook pictures on screens, frequently in a dense concentration of material.



The decoupage tradition has carried on through successive generations inspired by books written on the subject and artist decoupeurs.


Styles of Decoupage

The following is a list of decoupage styles, many of which overlap:

�� 17th century: baroque; classic; grotesque

�� 18th century: rococo or rocaille; chinoiserie; singerie

�� 19th century: Biedermeier; Milles Fleurs; Victorian; Trompe l'oeuil






Information about events at the Main Library and 41 branch libraries is available on the Internet site:


Interpreter available upon request for the hearing impaired.� Please call 369-6944 (TDD 369-6946) at least one week before program.