Special commission from artist Catherine Bertola,
Special commission from artist Catherine Bertola,
An Embossed Paper 1880s,
Japan printed by Jeffrey & Co 1914,
Arbutus by George Heywood Sumner 1897,
Woodnotes by Walter crane 1886,
Wonderwall: 300 Years of Wallpaper
December 2-May 9, 2010
Wallpapers are an often neglected area of the decorative arts because they were often intended as backdrops to the paintings and furniture that make up an interior.
However, Roger Warner with his unfailing eye for the unusual, recognised their elegance and historic importance. Sadly, Roger Warner passed away in 2008. This exhibition is a chance to remember a man who loved things that many found undesirable. This display shows, for the first time, his collection of wallpapers which are perhaps the most ephemeral of the decorative arts.
A commission by Catherine Bertola accompanies the exhibition. Her interests lie in hidden histories. She has used archival information about the hangings in Miss Scot’s room to create a new work remembering something almost forgotten.
The history of wallpaper is not a familiar story, it was last told at Temple Newsam twenty five years ago. This exhibition and booklet hopes to introduce the viewer to wallpaper. It asks the same question first uttered in 1900 by the great designer Lewis. F Day. Can you find poetry in a carpet or joy in a wallpaper?Roger Warner
Roger Warner is known to museums and collectors alike for his exceptional eye for the unusual and his interest in areas neglected by other antique dealers.
Warner would always be on the hunt for ‘those exceptions that spark interest and remark.” He purchased a dilapidated Elizabethan property in Burford in Oxfordshire, transforming it into his shop in 1936. On the first night at the premises he recalls that “wallpaper seemed to be hanging in shreds from the wall. I can remember tearing off an armful, putting it in the grate, setting fire to it...”. despite this and unlike many of his contemporaries, Warner bothered to keep fragments, admiring them for their historic interest.
Warner’s enthusiasm for the decorative arts and his belief in the benefit of public collections has meant that museums have benefited from his generosity. Temple Newsam was given extraordinary gifts of furniture and textiles. The wallpapers that Warner gave to the collection are an eclectic mix of salvaged relics and items from his grandfather Metford, and uncle Horace Warner’s careers at Jeffrey and Co. Thanks to his view that the “interest of an article was of more value than its worth” the wallpaper collection spans and demonstrates the development of English wallpaper from the seventeenth to the twentieth centuries.
Early English Printed Papers 1650-1800
From the late 1400s, printed images made from carved wooden blocks spread rapidly and were used widely across Europe because they were relatively cheap and fast to make.
Woodblock prints were used on walls and ceilings from at least the 1500s. Printed in black and white, such papers were often used in the 1600s to line boxes. The patterns were restricted by the size of the paper available. However, in the 1600s the simple innovation of pasting sheets of paper together allowed for larger patterns suitable for covering entire walls. This allowed English manufacturers to produce cheaper (but not necessarily cheap) imitations of the imported cotton, velvets and silks which were considered both fashionable and desirable for wall-coverings.
The invention of flocked papers in the late 1600s allowed for cheaper, more durable imitations of silks and velvets. This type of paper is made by shaking finely chopped and dyed wool over a pattern printed in sticky varnish. The excess is removed leaving a raised pattern.
As the manufacture of wallpaper developed, the designs became more complex. From the middle of the 1700s English manufacturers could make large scale printed wallpapers of gothic pillars, idyllic scenery or both. The essential technique of creating pattern from carved blocks did not vary much until the 1820s with early machine printing. Notwithstanding such innovations, the low technology method of pressing wood to paper by hand is still considered to produce higher quality papers than its machine printed counterparts.
The Nineteenth Century
The 1800s saw technological advances in English wallpaper manufacture. In 1798, the Frenchman Louis Robert found a way of producing continuous sheets of strong paper capable of being printed on. By the end of 1830s the first successful printing machine was invented. In the 1850s eight colour printing machines were used and in the 1870s twenty coloured printing machines were not uncommon. The increase in production was dramatic, growing from just over 1 million rolls of paper in 1834 to 32 million in 1874. Overall, this meant that cheap wallpaper was available to more households.
Despite the improvements in technique, critics worried about wallpaper design. International exhibitions and fairs showed English designs to be lacking in comparison with their French competitors. Paid designers were unusual. The norm was for block cutters to produce designs or to copy existing French ones. The designs were considered to be so poor that reformers such as George Lock Eastlake accused manufacturers of encouraging the public to, “prefer the vulgar, the gaudy, the ugly even, to the beautiful and perfect”.
The lack of designers in all industries prompted the founding of the Government Schools of Design in 1837. They had the specific aim of training designers for manufactured goods. Writers and reformers such as Henry Cole and Richard Redgrave sought to establish certain standards or principles for design across all industries. Owen Jones, would write, ‘All ornament should be based in geometrical construction’. The Design Reform Movement promoted the notion that ornament should be suitable for its specific purposes. Because they felt that wallpaper essentially forms a background, wallpapers were produced with small patterns of neatly arranged motifs. By the beginning of the 1860s standards had improved to the extent that during the 1862 International Exhibition in Paris the majority of prizes were awarded to English firms.
Metford Warner and Jeffrey and Co.
The firm of Jeffrey & Co were established in 1824. By 1862 they had established a reputation for fine hand block printing 1862 winning a commission to print papers designed by Owen Jones for the Viceroy’s palace in Cairo.
When William Morris formed Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Co. (later known as Morris and Co.) in 1861 its aim was to produce hand crafted items for the home. He insisted that all his works were produced by hand. However, Morris could not master wallpaper printing. Therefore, from 1864 he entrusted the production to Jeffrey and Co.
Metford Warner joined the firm in 1866 and was committed to fine production and good design. His approach to wallpaper manufacture was pioneering. He felt that the problems within the industry did not “lay so much with the manufacturer as with the artist who would not come down from his high pedestal as to design a wall paper”. When he became sole partner of the firm in 1872 he commissioned leading architects and designers, including illustrious figures such as Charles Eastlake, Lewis F. Day and Bruce Talbert to produce papers with ‘artistic feeling’. The new ‘Artistic Papers’ were met with critical acclaim. He took the policy to another level by employing Walter Crane whose lavish papers provoked mixed responses. Such was the skill of Jeffrey and Co.’s workforce that the designs could be adapted either for block printing or to be roller or machine printed. Metford himself would advise on colour ways. Metford continued the policy of using artists as designers. He would later employ (amongst others) both Sydney Vacher and George Heywood Sumner both of whom had exhibited at the Royal Academy. These collaborations were so successful that other firms such as Woolams and Co. and Essex and Co. began to commission artist designed wallpapers.
Metford Warner had huge sympathies with artists, giving them a remarkably free hand. He also sympathised with Morris and his followers’ pursuit of the hand made. However, he was above all a businessman and would always look for the most cost effective ways of producing the papers. He would say at the end of his career, “I think
my career has been a most uneventful one; it has after all merely been sticking to business…If it has done any good in the world it has elevated wallpapers, if it has been helpful in anyway, as a form of decoration [and] that is a great gratification to me.”
Walter Crane (1845-1915) achieved prominence as an artist and book illustrator before producing designs for Jeffrey and Co. in 1875. Although his designs were considered striking and attractive they provoked controversy.
Crane believed that there was no reason why the decorative arts could not be used to rouse thought. In contrast with many of his contemporaries, Crane believed that narratives, human forms and shapes could be used for wallpapers believing that they allowed the expression of “symbolic meaning.. fanciful allegory and playful ideas”. The designer, Lewis F. Day found such notions abhorrent, “Who wants poetry in carpet or ‘Joy’ in a wallpaper?” feeling that pattern should not intrude upon a room. Crane, however, was adamant that, “In mural decoration of any kind, one should never forget the wall”. Despite such criticisms at home, designs such as La Margrete, (1876) and Peacocks and Amorini, (1878) won Jeffrey & Co. awards in exhibitions in cities such as Philadelphia and Paris.
Many of the designs he drew for Jeffrey & Co. were so complex and colourful that they were costly to make and therefore unaffordable for all but the very wealthy. Metford Warner was sympathetic to the artistic ideals of Crane, allowing him to produce flamboyant designs which could require anything up to 30 blocks to print. However, by 1894, Warner asked Crane “to adopt a broader effect and severer methods”. This sort of compromise was never something that Crane was truly comfortable with believing that the designer should “try to please himself”. Despite this, in successful cooperation with Jeffrey & Co., Crane produced simpler patterns requiring fewer blocks and patterns adaptable for machine printing that were still, according to Metford Warner, “So distinctly of his [Crane’s] own creation.”
Horace Warner and Twentieth Century Wallpaper
Both of Metford’s sons, Albert and Horace, worked as designers for Jeffrey & Co., becoming co-owners in 1898. By this time, other leading manufacturers were following the example set by Metford, by continuing to commission artists to design wallpaper. The company continued to produce wallpapers until 1936 when it was taken over by Arthur Sanderson and Sons. Roger Warner was left a series of designs by Horace Warner which were completed shortly before the takeover.
They differ from the designs by architects and artists because they clearly show an innate understanding of wallpaper manufacture. Indeed the designs are made by only using one colour at a time, building up this design in layers which clearly reflects the printing process.
They also give an insight into wallpaper fashion between the wars. In Britain there were just a few years when such brightly coloured and dense patterns were fashionable. Soon fashionable interiors would have a ‘Modern’ look of plain walls and clean lines.
For the rest of the twentieth century to the present day ‘to wallpaper or not to wallpaper’ has been a major question of interior design.Curated & written by Polly Putnam, Assistant Curator of Decorative Arts
For more information about the exhibition and surrounding programming please visit: The Temple Newsam House