Forest Patterns was designed by modernist painter Arnold Blanch for Associated American Artists in 1953. It was produced by United Wallpaper, Inc., one of the largest American wallpaper producers of the mid-twentieth century. Blanch renders the leaves as graphic deconstructions of botanical illustrations. The veins and stems of the leaves are drawn in straight black lines, both solid and dashed. Dots, splotches, and grids in white, greens, and browns form the matrices of oak, beech, sumac, and other arboreal species that can be found in the woods surrounding Woodstock, NY, where Blanch worked and lived for many decades. The background is a grayish beige color, and the contrast between the leaves and the ground is minimal, so that the edges of leaves almost blend in with their surroundings.

When it comes to wallpaper, florals and foliage are perennial favorites. Humans crave contact with nature, and wallcoverings which feature natural motifs help to reconcile this desire for the outdoors with the equally strong yet contradictory desire to live within a dwelling that provides shelter from the elements. Though foliage as a subject matter has remained constant on wallcoverings throughout the centuries, the manner in which it is depicted adapts to fit the popular aesthetic of a given moment. In Forest Patterns, Blanch depicts an organized arrangement of leaves, which would be a familiar choice at any point in wallpaper history. However, the deconstructed renderings, the colorway, and the two-dimensional pointy-ness of his images are quite specific to the modernist sensibilities of the 1950s.

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.

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