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Suit Yourself™ International Magazine #26: Wallpaper Trompe L'Oeil

  

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Suit Yourself™ International Magazine #26: Wallpaper Trompe L'Oeil

 

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WALLPAPER TROMPE L'OEIL

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Endless Curtains. Terry Gilliam for Monty Python's Flying Circus.

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This is the 26th in our articles series and I hope this information is helpful!

All previous articles in the series can be found in our Library and in the Magazine Archives.  Upon request, reprint permission and an addendum of substantiating resources are available for all magazine articles. When requesting reprint permission or addenda, please include the issue date and full issue title. All magazine articles are copyright © Debra Spencer, Suit Yourself ™ International. All rights reserved. ISSN 2474-820X. 

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There is much more to wallpaper than meets the eye. Wallpaper's primary function is concealment, not decoration, and its' enduring popularity for over three hundred years is due primarily to this truth.  The fact that wallpaper IS decorative is what makes it successful as concealment, not vice versa, and in this regard, wallpaper and cosmetics have a lot in common.  

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Antique engraving, private collection.

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There is much more to wallpaper than meets the eye. Wallpaper's primary function is concealment, not decoration, and its' enduring popularity for over three hundred years is due primarily to this truth.  The fact that wallpaper is decorative is what makes it successful as concealment, not vice versa, and in this regard, wallpaper and cosmetics have a lot in common.  
 

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Humans are used to covering up things, and concealment and modesty walk hand in hand.  Besides themselves, humans have also covered walls, wells, cisterns, latrines (no coincidence it was referred to as a 'privy'), and any animals they ride for transport, and anywhere else they sit, sleep or eat, all for presumably the same reasons, the least of which is warmth. 

Concealment is, however, very different from modesty. Modesty comes from the Latin root 'modestus', meaning to keep within measure, to remain within previously set bounds, limits, or rules, and as such, it's an artifact of civilization. Concealment derives from Latin 'concelare' to hide, cover, conceal, or save, and is a form of deliberate deception. Deception means to deliberately persuade by misleading representation and concealment is only one of deception's myriad forms. Humans also cover things like gifts, holes, and trenches, meant as surprises and as protection from surprises (think 'man hole covers').

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Trompe l'oeil street painting.

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Wallpaper is a master of trompe l'oeil disguise. It keeps secrets in the open, where only those who know where, and how, will find them. Wallpaper has been used to send and display secret messages, to hide entrances, doors, and  safes, to change a room's dimensions. It can make people miss some entrance entirely, or make them feel as if they are somewhere other than where they actually are. It proclaims allegiances, alliances, and status. And it can do all this with what amounts to glue and paper.

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The effects of altering facades.

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The French phrase "trompe l'oeil" means to fool the eye; this is sometimes translated as to deceive the eye. Most modern dictionaries no longer define this accurately.  Trompe l'oeil sculptures, illustrations, paintings, or other creations, are considered 'trompe l'oeil' when they're deliberate misrepresentations. Done 'on purpose', they appear convincingly and deliberately to be something fundamentally different, in both appearance and purpose, to what they are in fact. Trompe l'oeil deceptions aren't just visual; they can involve any of the senses. Don't confuse trompe l'oeil with realism. Realism attempts to render things as most of us experience them, emphasising some aspect to consider.

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A framed brick painting.

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To most of working class America today, wallpaper is only a vague memory, recalled as something seen decorating the outside of wastebaskets or the inside of old books; there's not the foggiest notion of what its' use could be.   For the upper classes, wallpaper is an essential accessory, often with matching or coordinated fabric, lamps, pillows, and other decorative accessories. Their homes demonstrate the skill of using wallpaper to metamorphosize an attic into a comfortable guest bedroom. They use wallpaper to good advantage, and improve the value of their property in the process. 

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A low ceiling attic bedroom.

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Often a partially-papered wall is sometimes more successful than a wholly papered one.  Wallpapered panels, outlined either with wood mouldings or with paper borders, are often set into wood rooms, making a pleasant contrast between the panel decorations and the natural colour of the wood. These panels are carefully designed to fit the architecture of the room, and the painting of the intervening wall spaces, door, and window trim, is carefully studied to complement the colors of the paper.  A wallpaper cornice is sometimes used, with a border above the chair rail, recalling the old stencilled rooms of early days where each member of the family took part in stencilling a frieze.

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A stairway mural.

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Papers as 'background' to other decoration are also common in these homes; glazed papers for the kitchen, marbled papers for the hall, and textured papers of glass, metal, bricks, and imitation wood-graining. There are wallpapers that represent fabrics such as toile, chintzes, and damasks.  There are gold and silver wallpapers, brilliant colors, and eye popping designs. Often four or five different papers are combined in the same room, with a frieze of one color and pattern at the ceiling line, another paper on the dado, and two or more different papers with their borders on the field of the wall. 

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A formal dining room.

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Today, we also see wallpapered screens, desk boxes, storage boxes, and scrap boxes. With a coat of shellac, these are as durable as leather and very decorative. Wallpapered lamp shades can be amusing and gay. Wallpaper shelf borders can decorate a closet at small expense, while round hat boxes and letter holding boxes covered in wallpaper and sitting on open shelves make uniform and colourful dust protectors. Recent photographic reproduction processes have allowed us to reproduce small scale images in enormous scale, and vice versa, as wallpaper, giving a whole new meaning to realism. Today, small and large spaces can both be covered with images that totally change the apparent dimensions, feel, emotion , and market value of the space.  

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Before and after.

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A DOLLOP OF WALLPAPER HISTORY

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When European wallpaper first came into being, in the early 1500's, it was printed on small separate sheets of paper and the designs didn't match up or align when mounted together on a wall. The designs were simple, printing was on small paper sheets (approximately 12 inches x 16 inches) and sold by the ream or by the quire (one twentieth of a ream; a quire is 24 or sometimes 25 sheets of paper of the same size and quality).  The design's simple outline was engraved on a wood-block and printed with a simple press. The result was then hand colored using stencils and distemper colors (pigments mixed with powdered chalk or lime) mixed with glue. The French name for wallpaper, 'papier peint', literally painted paper, describes this early process.

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J.M. Papillon, "Etapes de la fabrication et de la pose du papier peint", No.1.

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The Dutch East India Company was founded in 1597, the English East India Company in 1600, and the French Company in 166o; all of them were inundating Europe with Orientalia, including wallpaper and porcelain hand painted with scenes Europe had never seen before, and which contained exotic depictions of strange birds such as peacocks, squirrels, monkeys, fruit, trees, flowers, and remarkable mythical monsters. By the 1700's, the Europeans had adopted all these designs, which became known as 'chinoiserie'.  These oriental scenes offered countless images that could be utilized as code 'semaphore' signals. 

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Chinoiserie.

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According to the Encyclopedia Britannica 14th edition, in 1712, under Queen Anne, a tax of one penny a square yard was assessed on English paper-hangings. In 1714 this tax was increased one-half. No change in duty was made thereafter for nearly a century. Wall-paper was exempted from duty in 1825, the same year in which prohibition of importation of this manufactured article was removed.

According to the Encyclopedia Britannica 14th edition, between the years of 1740 and the outbreak of the American Revolution, there were constant importations of paper-hangings to America, arriving from London and Paris by every ship and this in spite of the fact that there were also dozens of American manufacturers of it by this time. 

By 1817, the rage for scenic wall papers had engulfed New England; many designs were imported across the ocean as gifts, in special charge of the sea captains. In 1844 John Howell brought from England the first colour-printing machine, and wallpaper entered on a great era of development which continued until the close of the Victorian age.  Hiding a message in a wallpaper roll, or hiding the instructions to decipher the images printed on one,  was one sure way to make certain the information arrived, and relatively quickly. Indeed, wallpaper, once it was available in rolls, became a sort of 'underground railway' for transporting information. Receiving a light color or a dark color could actually be a message, similar to receiving something like 'light if by sea, dark if by land'.

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John Spath for Van Luit & Company, 1970.

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Wallpaper was also used to hide secret compartments in walls, and is still used that way today.  In many older European museums involving long interior walks, it's not uncommon to find a modern bathroom installation stashed somewhere behind an otherwise invisible wall panel. None of the guards take ten minutes to walk back to the entrance to use the euphemism.  We all know that safes are hidden in walls, but we don't realize they aren't hiding only behind hinged paintings

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Pierre-Marie Rudelle; two murals.

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Around 1688, in France, the master dominotier Jean Papillon (1661-1723) began creating continuous matching designs, and his son-in-law and apprentice Jacques Chauvau improved the implementation by printing all the colours from successively applied wood-blocks, instead of stencilling them all individually by hand. A dominotier was a member of the guild 'dominotiers, tapissiers et imagiers'; a guild formed in 1586, by permission of the king of France, Henry III, by a merging of tapestry makers, printers, and visual artists. Theirs was a closely knit, closely related group. Papillon's procedures were widely used, and a number of wallpaper factories opened across Europe, but all of them worked with small sheets of paper. 

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 J.M. Papillon, "Etapes de la fabrication et de la pose du papier peint", No. 4.

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Pierre Simon Fournier (15 September 1712 – 8 October 1768), a typographer on the rue Carré St. Martin, Paris, had been working with  J. G. I. Breitkopf in 1756 to developed a new typestyle for printing music that rounded the notes, making the music easier to read. He was also known as Fournier le Jeune ("the younger") to distinguish him from his father Jean Claude, who was also in the typesetting industry.

In 1760, Fournier made the first attempt to produce paper in long strips by pasting the small sheets together before printing, thus forming a roll. This became so popular that standards were set for it, and an edict of Louis XVI in 1778 decreed that each such "roll" should contain 24 sheets of paper, pasted end to end, making the length about 34 feet. The name and address of the maker was obligatory on the two end sheets, and this was the standard size for a roll of wall-paper until the metric system was adopted officially in France on 10 December, 1799. 

By 1750, England was shipping flocked paper to France, using a shredded silk process originally developed in France, 50 years before, with shredded wool.  

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Flocked wallpaper.

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Around 1754, under the direction of John Baptist Jackson, paper panels reproducing classic engravings and statues were printed in oil on a rolling press of his own invention, and in 1786, Francis Frederick and George Eckhardt established a factory in Chelsea and executed some remarkable papers with needlework designs, and others with printing in silver-leaf. 

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John Spath for Van Luit & Company, 1965.

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The French, however, continued to innovate and invented a machine to print paper in 1785.  Unfortunately, revolution was brewing, everywhere.

France had to wait until after 1810 to benefit from the innovation of continuous wallpaper rolls. 

Jean-Baptiste Réveillon had a factory in Paris that undoubtedly produced the most beautiful wall-papers the world has ever known. He had panels created for him by all the leading European artists of the day, including Huet, Cietti, J. B. Fay, Prieur and Lavallee-Poussin.  The Réveillon designs remain much copied today, and several original Réveillon panels by Prieur are in the Musee des Arts Decoratifs in Paris. In Réveillon's opinion, no paper stock existed fine enough to be worthy of these designs. He states in his Memoires that he saw a piece of vellum paper brought to France by Benjamin Franklin; it was paper used in England by Baskerville in printing fine books, and it was that he greatly desired to reproduce. So in 1770, he purchased a paper-mill at Courtalin-en-Brie, and began fabricating the paper for which he was awarded the Prize for the Encouragement of Useful Arts in 1786.  Réveillon had an amazing knowledge of technique, and he had already received, in 1784, the title of "royal manufactory" from Louis XVI, giving Réveillon the right to add the crown and the three fleurs-de-lys to his logo sign.

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Réveillon designs for Clandon Park, Surrey, sold by Christie's in 2003 for £1,195.00.

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Unfortunately, and according to the Encyclopedia Britannica 14th edition, disaster struck in 1789, at the beginning of the French Revolution.  Incited by jealous competitors, and roused by the rumour that their wages were to be cut, Réveillon's group of some three hundred employees staged a series of riots, pillaged his factory for three days, between April 26th and 29th, leaving destruction and ruin in their wake. Unable to find and murder Réveillon himself, they burned him in effigy and destroyed the factory. The French guards, ordered out to quell the disturbance, fired on the mob; many were killed and several were sent to prison. The king offered Réveillon a sum of 30,000 francs to offset his loss, assuring him protection and continuance of royal favour if he would resume his work, however Réveillon decided instead to emigrate to England, where he died a few years later, leaving what remained to Jacquemart and Benard, who proved worthy successors. 

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Moccas Court in Herefordshire boasts the only surviving example in England of  Réveillon wallpaper panels still in their original setting; it is now a luxury hotel.

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Paper in continuous rolls was invented by Nicholas-Louis Robert (1761 – 1828) of Essones, France, and on January 18, 1799, a patent was grated by the French Government. To learn more about this highly significant invention, please see
https://www.paperdiscoverycenter.org/inductees/louis-nicolas-robert/
and for another view,
http://www.liquisearch.com/history_of_paper/19th_century_advances_in_papermaking

Didot obtained Robert's rights rather acrimoniously; the English patents, "to make paper without seam or join," were obtained in London in 1801 by John Gamble and Didot St. Leger, who were intent on developing and patenting the machine in England, away from the French Revolution.  However, before 1830, the use of paper of continuous lengths was not permitted in England; it caused the loss of  important revenue derived from the tax stamps on the small sheets. By 1806, falsification of wallpaper stamps was added to the list of offenses punishable by death. To deal with the tax, English wallpaper became grossly commoditized so it would be saleable in quantity, using simple designs that could be colored at home by hand once on the wall, similar to today's coloring books. This gave the French the advantage in taste, talent, design, production, quality, and just about everything else.

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Diagram of Nicholas-Louis Robert's print making machine.

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Scenic wallpaper created later than the discovery of continuous  paper was still printed on small sheets. These manufacturers had kept a supply of old paper, recognizing it as much better quality than machine-made paper. 19th century scenic papers still in existence today owe their long life to the durability of the material with which they were made. 

Scenic papers were made the same way by all the manufactures. Small sheets were first glued together to form a "roll," the paper was then sized, and spread out to its full length on long tables, where it received the background colour, put on by a workman with a brush in each hand. After the rolls had been hung up to dry, they were polished on the back. They were then ready for the printer and his wood-blocks. Tempera colours, mixed with hot glue, were used for printing, and a different block was used for each colour, which necessitated as many blocks as there were colours or shades in the design. One colour was printed at a time throughout each roll, and left to dry before proceeding with another. 

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Atelier Poulaillon.

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In France, in the early 1800's, wallpaper was being printed as room border designs, as elaborate floral creations and architectural friezes. These were often used to outline doors and windows or architectural details within the room, such as above or around a fireplace

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Salle d'Honneur de l'Hôtel de Ville de Tarbes.

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Many were printed to look like a cornice, and these were hung at a junction of the wall and ceiling to add importance and grandeur to the room. 

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Décor Zeus et Athena.

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Every room became a theatre set. Sometimes only three walls were emphasized and it became fashionable to divide the room, and the walls, into parts: the frieze, the filler, and the dado. The dado is the lower portion of the room's wall, and it would be decorated differently from the upper section. For example, the upper section might contain a tall vertical panel, while the dada below it contained a horizontal panel with the same width as the vertical.  

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Fresque Pompeienne.

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Each of these paneled sections would be coordinated but different, and they would all share the same border which would differentiate each section. This elaborate presentation became a very popular style often seen in Victorian homes. 

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Fresque Pompeienne, aussi.

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Panoramic landscapes were popular, but stripes were also.  Military-reminiscent stripes on walls and ceilings became popular during the Napoleonic era, and the fashion spread throughout Europe. Wallpaper was replacing actual wall painting and the printing processes were hard pressed (pun intended) to accommodate demand for designs on grand scales never before attempted.

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John Spath for Van Luit & Company, 1965.

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To cover the walls of a large room without repeating a scene required printing approximately 20 to 30 lengths of paper, each measuring approximately 120 inches tall (10 feet) by 20 inches wide // 300 cm x 50 cm. Each scene used literally thousands of hand-carved blocks, hundreds of colors, and a great deal of alignment angst. 

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J.M. Papillon, "Etapes de la fabrication et de la pose du papier peint", No. 5.

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Massive amounts of material, skill, time, energy, and risk, were required to print papers on this scale and only a few companies did it;  the two main producers were Zuber in Rixheim and Dufour in Mâcon and Paris. 

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J.M. Papillon, "Etapes de la fabrication et de la pose du papier peint", No. 6.

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Given what was involved here, designs were modified rather than recreated from' scratch'.  In 1852, Zuber took advantage of a nationalist wave in the USA and republished a previous wallpaper, "Views of North America", as "The War of American Independence" by substituting foreground figures to make the Boston Harbor became the Boston Tea Party. Peaceful scenes could be modified to become battlefields, and they were.

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Cannons, antique engraving, private collection.

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ZUBER

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Zuber's factory, founded in 1797, at Rixheim in Alsace,  is still in operation, still using the same printing blocks. They currently possess no fewer than 150,000 of their original wooden blocks from 1797 to 1830 and they're still regularly using them for manufacturing their fine papers. Their archive of 130,000 original designs is also still in regular use. Their English and American panorama scenes first issued in the early 1800's are still available today.  Zuber is renowned for panoramic wallpaper.  What are you still using that's at least 187 years old?

Zuber printed the first continuous color rolls in 1829. In 1850, they obtained from Manchester the first cylinder color-press to come into France. Zuber's vast archive of samples today forms the basis of the 'Musée Du Papier Peint' established in 1982. 

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The homepage at the website of www.Zuber.fr.

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Exhibition of 18th-century wallpapers at the Musée Du Papier Peint (Rixheim, Alsace), Dec. 2006-Nov.2007:
http://www.meublepeint.com/papiers-painted-exposure-rixheim.htm

Visit Zuber's website at 
http://www.zuber.fr

More than seven different fabrication techniques are detailed here:
https://www.zuber.fr/fr/fabrication

A remarkable video is available on wallpaper manufacture using late 18th century methods:
https://www.zuber.fr/fr/video

 

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Chinoiserie, attributed to Zuber.

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ENGLAND COMPETES

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In England, repeal of wallpaper taxation in 1836 encouraged designers to once again produce complex images.  

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Paravent par Braquenie.

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Potters of Darwen in Lancashire, England adapted a printing machine for wallpaper, and patented it in 1839; wallpaper quickly became a commodity there.  
With the advent of the printing machine, panoramic decorations had begun to fall out of fashion, by 1849, and the printing machine discouraged further attempts. 

Wallpaper was now applied directly to plaster, and required very little skill and relatively little effort to install. 

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Comment poser du papier peint tissu sur un mur!

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Production increased, prices dropped, more people found wallpaper affordable,  and all sorts of excessive designs appeared, including wallpaper for children's rooms.

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Wallpaper design by William Morris.

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The reaction to all this excess set in quickly. By 1856, Owen Jones had written 'The Grammar of Ornament' advocating a restoration of at least a modicum of restraint and taste,  and for quality workmanship. In 1880, William Morris was designing wallpapers consciously insisting on pure colors and quality techniques; he managed to influence the next generation of printers, and thus the hundreds of mass-produced papers that were manufactured through the end of that century. 

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Wallpaper designs by William Morris.

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William Morris's designs were dense, complex, intricate, with deep rich colors.  However, wallpaper had become accessible and common, and fell out of fashion with the wealthy.

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Wallpaper design by William Morris.

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Wallpaper acquired wild graphic designs in the 1920's, and like today, traditional wallpaper patterns became available right alongside cubist and futurist images. The wealthy reverted to using rare fabrics such as silk, in unusual weaves and patterns, and to custom painting.   

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Istanbul pejac, trompe l'oeil.

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Practical innovations, however, continued, with waterproof paper in 1947, vinyl stick-on papers and pre-pasted papers in the 1950's, and most recently, gigantic full scale color realistic photographic reproductions. You can now have any design in any size on any wall that you wish. Or you can just line some drawers. 

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A loft space dining room.

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In the 1970's, Van Luit & Company in California was still hand printing silk screened wallpaper with original designs by John Spath; some designs required 200 or more screens to print. 

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John Spath for Van Luit & Company, 1970.

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To the best of my knowledge, however, there are few organizations still printing paper today using old methods; the oldest is Zuber, and there is Atelier Poulaillon and Les Papiers Palamino (http://www.papierpalomino.com/).  Luxury brands such as Laura Ashley, Pierre Frey, and Braquenie are commercial firms that do not produce papers in this way.  

This venerable old art is nearly extinct.

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Exemple d'ornement signé Caron et issu d'une gravure sur bois.

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Wallpaper is called many names, and among these are wall paper, printed paper, illuminated paper,  papier peint, and papier dominoté.

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Baroque wallpaper panelling and a modern black leather chair.

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Wallpaper covers a multitude of sins, creates illusions, and like the best magicians, does not readily reveal the tricks of its' trade. 

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Folding evolution door, Klemens Torggler.

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Wallpaper also has numerous names depending on the method, material, country of origin, and designs printed on it, including parchment manuscripts decorated with beautifully coloured drawings by monks referred to as illuminators, wood block prints, marbled paper, suminagashi, abr-o-bâd (abrî) and rice paper.

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Erkunde Paris Art, Eiffeltürme und noch mehr!

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While popularity for 300 years is no guarantee something will continue to endure, baring any substantive change in human nature, it's likely wallpaper will be with us for a long time to come.  It's been human nature to conceal, and ever since we started with fig leaves, we haven't stopped. Fig leaves, wallpaper, and other similar such contrivances, makeup, baseball caps, hand fans, screens, wallpaper, camouflage, bikinis, jock straps, curtains, ruffles, will probably endure in some form or other as long as we do.

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Terry Gilliam for Monty Python's Flying Circus, David's Fig Leaf.

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ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

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Exposition Les Papiers Peints Du XVIIIe Siècle Au Musée De Rixheim
http://www.meublepeint.com/papiers-peints-exposition-rixheim.htm

L'Histoire du papier peint et les enjeux de sa conservation et de sa restauration 
http://www.lesartsdecoratifs.fr/IMG/pdf/03_PapiersPeints_VeroniqueDELAHOUGUE.pdf

Papiers peints de la fin du XVIIIe siècle, Manufacture Réveillon | Centre de documentation des musées - Les Arts Décoratifs 
http://opac.lesartsdecoratifs.fr/fiche/papiers-peints-de-la-fin-du-xviiie-siecle-manufacture-reveillon

Petite histoire du papier peint - Musée du Papier Peint, Rixheim, France 
https://www.museepapierpeint.org/fr/le-papier-peint/historique/

History of Paper - 19th Century Advances in Papermaking
http://www.liquisearch.com/history_of_paper/19th_century_advances_in_papermaking

Louis-Nicolas Robert
2012 Paper Industry International Hall of Fame Inductee
https://www.paperdiscoverycenter.org/inductees/louis-nicolas-robert/

Jean-Michel Papillon, Traité historique et pratique de la gravure sur bois (1766) vol.1
http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=v6PppacFLpAC&dq=papillon+traite+1766&source=gbs_navlinks_s

Henri Clouzot, "La tradition du papier peint en France au xviie et xviiie siècles" Gazette des beaux-arts, February 1912, p.131-43.  http://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/bpt6k61200690/f142.image

"Papillon et les dominoteurs" La Revue de 'Art Ancien et Moderne, 1931, p.77-88
http://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/bpt6k4325646/f78.image

Phyllis Ackerman, Wallpaper, its history design and uses (1923)
https://archive.org/stream/wallpaperitshist00ackeuoft#page/n7/mode/2up

Wallpaper: Early 18th-century paper
http://rodama1789.blogspot.com/2014/10/wallpaper-1-early-18th-century-paper.html

Wallpaper: Manufacturing and hanging
http://rodama1789.blogspot.com/2014/10/wallpaper-2-manufacturing-and-hanging.html

Alyson McDermott, Historical Interiors
http://www.allysonmcdermott.com/

Designer Wallcoverings DW Los Angeles
http://designerwallcoverings.com/WallpaperStore/

Encyclopedia Brittanica 14th Edition

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I sign our magazine articles "See Into The Invisible". Thanks for reading.

Best Wishes, 
Debra Spencer

All Content is © Debra Spencer, Suit Yourself™ International. Technical Library FAQ Index ISSN 2474-820X. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce in part or in whole without express written consent. Thank you.
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All Content is ©2019 Debra Spencer, Appanage™at www.suityourself.international Suit Yourself ™ International, 120 Pendleton Point, Islesboro Island, Maine, 04848, USA 44n31 68w91 Technical Library FAQ Index ISSN 2474-820X. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce in part or in whole without express written consent. Thank you.

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All Content is ©2019 Debra Spencer, Appanage™at www.suityourself.international Suit Yourself ™ International, 120 Pendleton Point, Islesboro Island, Maine, 04848, USA 44n31 68w91 Technical Library FAQ Index ISSN 2474-820X. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce in part or in whole without express written consent. Thank you.
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