To celebrate the opening of The Jazz Age: American Style in the 1920s, this Object of the Day is dedicated to design now on view in the exhibition.
On a series of glass shelves, a variety of objects can be seen, including a flask, a perfume bottle, a small case, a jewelry box open with its contents spilling out, and a partially-eaten apple. These objects mark this paper as one meant for the interior of a lady’s room, likely her bedroom or boudoir. The color scheme of dark and light blue, orange, cream, and pale pink is very typical of Art Deco, as is the mix of geometric motifs and simplified forms. Classical imagery, also typical of Art Deco, can be seen in the shape of the pale pink flask and the small motif of a Greek lekythos vase repeated on the side of the shelving.
Most of the objects in this wallpaper reflect the new culture of luxury shopping that developed in the 1920s. This development was due for the most part to France’s attempts during the decade to rebrand itself as the center of luxury good production and commerce. The 1925 Expo in Paris, besides introducing the world at large to the Art Deco style, presented the nation’s capital as a shopping paradise. Every major boutique and department store had a pavilion, most designers presented their work in settings reminiscent of the interiors of wealthy houses, and the Eiffel Tower was strung with lights and transformed into an ad for Citroën cars. The city especially sought to present itself a paradise for women consumers. Contemporary fashion magazines and advertising aimed at the modern woman presented shopping as a liberating act, an assertion of the self through visible consumption. It is no surprise, then, that so many of the most iconic products of the 1920s are feminine objects like those seen in this sidewall, objects like perfume bottles, vanities, and jewelry. The success of the city’s attempts to rebrand can be seen in the fact that Paris is still considered the home of haute couture and the center of high-end shopping, and Art Deco as a style is still synonymous with luxury.
Another version of this wallpaper in yellow and black was given in 1929 by Paul Frankl galleries. It was perhaps the first contemporary object added to the museum’s collection. The wallpaper’s designer Josef Hillerbrand was an apprentice of the legendary designer and architect Richard Riemerschmid. Trained as a decorative painter, he was most successful as a designer of furnishing fabrics for the Deutsche Werkstätten AG, a furniture manufacturer in Dresden. However, he also designed a porcelain service for Nymphenberg and wallpapers for Manufacture Erismann & Cie., of which the museum has two examples.
This object can be seen in The Jazz Age: American Style in the 1920s, on view at Cooper Hewitt until August 20, 2017.
Nicholas Lopes is a student in the History of Design & Curatorial Studies graduate program at Cooper Hewitt, and is a Master’s Fellow in the Wallcoverings Department.