The rapid industrialization and urbanization that occurred in the United States during the mid-20th century made many Americans feel nostalgic for a more bucolic way of life. Landscape wallpaper was a cheap and easy way for people to bring a bit of country living to the city. Equally eager for glimpses of nature were the many young families plunked down in the ever-expanding suburbs and recovering from painful memories of WWII.
With this serene landscape paper, the J.C. Eisenhart Wall Paper Company did a commendable job of channeling the desires of contemporary American homeowners. Although machine printed, the design hearkens back to the traditional block printed papers of the 18th and 19th centuries. Tall leafy trees and serene grassy bluffs frame a lazy river that flows peacefully beneath a blue sky and puffy white clouds. No people or buildings interrupt the pleasant scene. The traditionalist style of the art and tranquil subject matter would have provided a brief respite for the busy mid-century viewer, allowing them for a moment to feel connected with an idealized past. No specific production date is known for this paper but it was most likely produced post-war to meet the needs of returning veterans and their growing families. Having its roots in the 18th century is proof that wallpapers with landscape scenes have struck a lasting chord with consumers.
See this work on view beginning December 12 in the Immersion Room, an opening exhibition that features selected wallcoverings projected onto the walls at full scale and an interactive design table where visitors can create their own.
Anna Rasche is a student in the History of Decorative Arts & Design graduate Program at the Cooper Hewitt, and is a Master’s Fellow in the Wallcoverings Department.