I have always been fond of landscape friezes and I sometimes wish I lived in a nice bungalow where I could actually use some of these different wall treatments to best effect. I’ve probably mentioned before that wide landscape friezes were popularized by Walter Crane when he introduced his May Tree frieze in 1896, and were extremely popular from about 1905-15.

Landscape friezes were commonly used in dining rooms, hallways, maybe libraries, and would hang above a high wainscot or patterned wallpaper running from the baseboard up to six feet or so. Another less-patterned paper would then cover the wall between the top of the frieze and the ceiling. Another option, if the ceiling is papered, is to carry the ceiling design down to the top of the frieze. If used in a dining room a plate rail could be installed to cover the seam between the wallpaper and frieze.

This frieze is especially striking, with its metallic gold sky and deep red ground that shades from dark to light, like there is some ominous cloud hanging over the foreground of this landscape. It creates a rather surreal effect, and the fact that this landscape is mostly barren, kind of feeds into this feeling. There are a few mounds of scrub grass in the front, interspersed with some all-but leafless trees. While the trees in the background do seem to contain foliage, they are rendered as green silhouettes and seem to be somewhat removed from the landscape, maybe filling in for the lack of clouds.

One of the reasons for using multiple patterns on the wall, aside from alleviating the boredom of having a single paper cover all four walls from baseboard to crown or picture molding, was to visually lower the ceiling. Though living in a pre-war apartment with eight and a half foot ceilings I can’t imagine why that would be a problem.

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