This wallpaper by Peter Phillips was one of several designed by contemporary artists for the Marburg wallpaper company in the 1970s. Founded in 1845 in Marburg, Germany, the company is one of the oldest wallpaper producers in the country. Beginning in the 1920s, it became known for collaborating with contemporary artists to create papers, though this activity increased in the 1950s after the company moved to Kirchhain. In the late 1960s, they created the ‘Arte’ line, and in the early 1970s, they produced the ‘Xart Walls’ line. Artists who contributed designs to this latter line included German artists Werner Berges, Paul Wunderlich, and Otmar Alt, French artist Niki de Saint Phalle, and Italian artist Getulio Alviani.

Two British contributors to Xart Walls were the pop artists Allen Jones and Peter Phillips. Allen Jones’ design was based on a detail from his 1958 print Icarus, while Peter’s design was taken from his 1970 painting Kenya. The sidewall and the painting are practically identical with only some differences in color and some details altered so that the image could be repeated.
kenya 1
Alongside other paintings such as Tanzania and Safari, Kenya likely was inspired by Phillips’ travels in Africa in the early 70s. However, details such as the rainbow band-aid-like shapes and geometric background are seen in many of his other paintings and prints, including in a 1972 screen print Impeller that is highly similar to Kenya.
kenya 2
This repetition of forms and motifs is typical of Phillips’ work, who was inspired by advertising and American culture. One of the originators of Pop art, he quickly became known for his collages, paintings, and prints. In the US in the 1960s, he exhibited next to Allen Jones, James Rosenquist, Andy Warhol, and Roy Lichtenstein. With Allen Jones he was a guest lecturer from 1968-70 at the Hochschule fur Bildende Kunste, the Academy of Fine Arts at Hamburg, which may explain how he became involved with Marburg. Despite Phillips’ prolific output, this sidewall represents a rare foray into design for this pioneer of modern art.

Nicholas Lopes is a student in the History of Design & Curatorial Studies graduate program at the Cooper Hewitt, and is a Master’s Fellow in the Wallcoverings Department.

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