The museum recently acquired a group of four wallpapers designed by John Rombola. Rombola has a unique drawing style and his designs are whimsical, a mix of naïve and fantastical, with a brilliant use of color and pattern. His use of pattern to define and give substance to his characters is part of his signature style and is nicely illustrated in Horse Show.
Horse Show captures the drama of competition with horses and their riders competing in various events, a ringmaster blows his trumpet, a table full of trophies to be won, and a crowd of attentive spectators. The patrons, ribbons and even the hedge are composed of brightly colored patterns. The two gentlemen with the square suits are a good example of Rombola’s style, where one is wearing stripes, the other a maze pattern, while the woman in between them wears a spotted dress. And you have to check out the stiletto heels on the women, not to be missed! Another great example of his delightful use of color and pattern can be seen in the hedge, through which the horse is jumping. Each is composed of floral motifs and foliate sprigs which define the bushes.
Rombola was a contemporary of Saul Steinberg, and while each of them illustrated in a very linear format, their styles were quite different. Both artists’ designs were clever and witty but Rombola distinguished himself through his use of bold colors and patterned surfaces.
Rombola began designing wallpapers in 1956 and continued creating new patterns until 1968, Horse Show was one of his earlier designs and set the stage for more whimsical and colorful things to come. The museum collection contains twelve different wallpaper designs by Rombola, along with an extensive group of carcards, used for advertising in New York City subways.