Wallpaper: Horses, New York, 1951. Designed by Saul Steinberg. Gift of Harvey Smith and Benjamin Piazza

Amusing and Decorative Wallpaper

While Steinberg trained as an architect he is best known for his satirical cartoons in The New Yorker. He began drawing shortly after enrolling in college and had his first cartoon published in The New Yorker in 1941, and even after joining the US Navy in 1943 he continued sending in cartoons from his various stations across Europe. Over the span of his career he was given 85 covers and had 642 illustrations published in The New Yorker.

During the 1950s he was also busy designing wallpapers as the Cooper-Hewitt contains eight different designs created from 1946 through the early 1950s. All but one of these was printed by Piazza Prints. All contain the wonderful line illustrations Steinberg is famous for, with his whimsy, anecdotal humor, unusual perspectives and changes in scale. The horses in this design are performing a number of different feats, from performing in the circus, to pulling carts and serving the military. Some are awkwardly drawn, while others are quite majestic. There are splashes of color added throughout and the weight of his line varies, each of which add visual interest to the design. There is also a great sense of movement created by the gestural drawings of the horses, and the changing scale of the figures keeps one’s eyes moving from the foreground to the background.

Other Steinberg works in the Cooper-Hewitt permanent collection include drawings for some of his wallpapers, posters, and printed textiles with similar and different designs. Owing to the fun and timeless nature of the designs, Horses and other Steinberg designs are still available on wallpaper and textiles through Schumacher.

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