The collection of Jean Léon Decloux (1840-1929), acquired in 1911 and 1921, forms the foundation Cooper-Hewitt’s Rococo and Neoclassical holdings of works on paper. A former painting contractor and decorative arts collector, Decloux met Eleanor and Sarah Hewitt, the museum’s benefactors, at a luncheon given by the former Marcellite Thorn Garner of New York, the second wife of Henri-Charles Joseph Letonnelier, marquis de Breteuil, who had hired the Decloux family firm to decorate interiors in the newly constructed Hôtel de Breteuil on avenue Foch, Paris. The sisters were in Europe for one of their annual study and buying trips on behalf of their newly established museum. Within the year, Decloux secured an ongoing relationship with the Hewitts, functioning as their Paris agent for the purchase of decorative arts material for the museum’s collection. Between 1907 and 1910 he purchased French and German ornament prints as well as drawings by François Boucher, Juste-Aurèle Meissonnier, and others. By late 1910, he offered the museum his entire decorative-arts drawings and decorative paintings collection, numbering 350 objects. The Museum’s Advisory Council agreed to fund the acquisition from donations by its members. With the goals of promoting its new educational resource for design students and increasing the institution’s profile in the New York cultural community, the museum exhibited the collection in November 1911 as reported in The New
Suffering hard times during World War I, Decloux offered the second portion of his collection comprising 413 albums of ornament prints and related preparatory drawings, in 1921. With this acquisition, the museum acquired major holdings of ornament prints by such important Rococo designers as Meissonnier, Jacques de Lajoüe, Alexis Peyrotte, Jean-François Cuvilliés, and Johann Michael Hoppenhaupt II. Today Cooper-Hewitt’s holdings of Rococo works on paper ranks among the best in the United States.