Children's Frieze Makes Learning Fun

Cecil Aldin was a well-known painter and book illustrator, highly esteemed for his animal portraiture. This children’s frieze was made up of seven different panels that would be joined end to end to form a non-repeating scene thirty-five feet long. This is long enough to wrap around an average-size room without repeat. By comparison, most machine-printed wallpapers repeat every 18 inches. The panels consist of a pack of dogs in active pursuit of something, followed by riders on horseback with more dogs, a horse-drawn carriage, more riders on horses, and finally, this horse-drawn cart holding the goose and the one final dog. Nowhere is it apparent what is being hunted. The animals and figures are all beautifully illustrated while the scene itself is void of any background imagery with the exception of a horizon line.

The period from about 1900 until the Depression in 1929 was the heyday of children’s wallpaper design. Many wonderful and clever designs were produced by renowned illustrators and these wide block-printed friezes were true show-stoppers. Normally a frieze is hung at the top of the wall, but for children it was recommended to hang the frieze lower to make the room more accommodating to the child. Also, these friezes were normally hung with another patterned paper or oilcloth below, and a second patterned paper above, running up to the ceiling.

While the charming illustrations would certainly delight children and adults alike, early children’s wallpapers were designed to educate, not to amuse. The implied action, recognizable animals, and bright colors were said to be stimulating and educational for children, and child scholars believed designs for children should contain realistically rendered, recognizable objects so as not to be confusing.

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