Wallpapering your Floor

This parquet border design came into the collection with a group of wallpapers all produced during the late 19th century. And if memory serves me correctly, this group of papers was found in San Francisco which means they survived the great earthquake and fire of 1906 which devastated the city. This was a diverse group of papers ranging from high-end block printed designs to more inexpensive mass-produced machine-printed designs. This roll of paper belonged to the latter group. It was printed in very few colors on very thin paper with a wood pulp composition.
Parquet, border, wallpaper, woodgrain

From Dumpster to Gallery, a Wallpapers Rise to Fame

The provenance of this piece is kind of a fun rags to riches story. This wallpaper is a very mass-produced example of mid-century design, containing a dense pattern of organic, stylized foliage forms with boomerang overlays, quite typical for the 1950s. The paper was donated to the Museum by a woman who was interning in the Wallcoverings Department, who happened to mention that her husband had been walking down the street and found this cool wallpaper in the garbage. When the intern was telling the story, the curator was intrigued and asked if she could see it.
wallpaper, mid-century, 1950s, boomerang, floral

Birth of Venus

The reason I chose this wallcovering by Teresa Kilham was due to the mythology behind this piece. As a child I was obsessed with Greek and Roman mythology. I was so fascinated by all the different gods and goddesses. The gods portrayed in this piece, Neptune and Venus are largely involved in the ocean which I have also loved my whole life. When I was younger my favorite mythological god was Aphrodite due to her strange "birth." The story behind her birth is that she rose from the sea foam in a seashell.
Venus, shell, wallpaper, sea, Neptune

Flower Power

Love in Bloom is a beautifully designed wallpaper that speaks of the period during which it was made. The differing shades of taupe printed in transparent colors on the reflective Mylar foil ground create a great sense of depth. Produced in 1968, it speaks very strongly of the Flower Power movement, of peace in turbulent times, as well as the use of new materials.
wallpaper, Mylar, screenprint, peace, floral, flowers

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.
Steinberg, horses, wallpaper, circus, military, uniform

Looking into the Future

I have always been fascinated by these wallpapers with flying space ships and astronaut papers designed for boys in the 1950s. With their scenes of lunar landings and astronauts charting their progress, they really were looking to the future. Printed in 1954 this paper pre-dates Sputnik, the Soviet Union’s successful launch of the world’s first satellite in 1957, and the first walk on the moon by Neil Armstrong in 1969. This is one of many wallpapers featuring space ships and astronauts designed for boys in the 1950s.
wallpaper, outer space, astronaut, moon, lunar

Fascinated with French Poodles

One can’t go through the mid-century without being shown some poodles. French poodles appeared on numerous wallpapers during the 1950s. This is Gigi, printed on Super Sanitas. As you can see, Gigi is getting coiffed for a night out in Paris. The design contains 4 different scenes, showing Gigi getting coiffed and pedicured, having her hair set, and promenading with her beau in front of Club Chien. The color is predominantly pink, with accents of metallic silver and gold. Very 1950s!
wallpaper, poodle, dog, fifties, Sanitas

Not So Innocent Foliage Pattern

Efeu [Ivy] appears to be a photographic rendering of a lush growth of ivy consuming a wall. This rendering is more dense than usual but the design of ivy growing up a wall has been a popular theme in wallpaper for many years. Ivy patterns are rather casual, relaxing, non-offensive, a design that is rarely questioned. This design, however, does have a darker side. As with many of Demand’s works, this is actually a reconstruction of his own creation, which was then photographed and manipulated to create a repeating pattern.
wallpaper, foliage, ivy

A Subtle Blooming Wallpaper

This very high-quality wallcovering, produced by the New York firm Leissner & Louis, ca. 1872-78, is woodblock-printed on embossed paper, demonstrating a well-executed design and of equal quality print.
wallpaper, floral, Victorian, aesthetic, japanesque

Robinson Crusoe

I find it interesting that the novel Robinson Crusoe, written by Daniel Defoe in 1719, while not originally intended for a child audience, became the subject of one of the earliest children’s wallpapers. Early children’s wallpapers were designed to be educational and not to amuse. While this book was a novel about travel and adventure and would certainly have appealed to the imaginations of children, it also delivers a strong message of faith. This is the aspect of the novel that would have appealed to manufacturers and parents.
wallpaper, Children, Crusoe, washable, intaglio