This roll of embossed imitation leather wallpaper is a beautiful example of Art Nouveau design. The pattern is a repeating design of a single motif, a stylized ear of wheat or other grain, lined up in offset horizontal rows. The leaves have been delicately rendered with the tip ending in a scroll, while the top of the ear or head of grain is perfectly flat. The pattern is printed in earthy green and brown on a tan ground which were popular color choices in the early years of the twentieth century and support the contemporary motif.

Leather papers have been popular since the late nineteenth century and found a renewed interest during the Colonial Revival movement of the early twentieth century. Imitation leather papers were among the more expensive wallpapers as they were woodblock printed, embossed on heavy paper stock, then antiqued or glazed by hand with an oil color. The majority of these papers copied historic or antique patterns, but leather papers were also designed in a contemporary style as this paper illustrates.

Cooper Hewitt had a small fragment of this design in the collection and it has always been a favorite so it was great to receive this large roll as a gift. The existing fragment is also printed in a different colorway. I always enjoy having designs in multiple colorways to demonstrate how different colors can change the feel of a design, as well as increase consumer appeal. The museum’s collection includes about ninety samples of imitation leather papers produced in Japan, France, England, Germany, and the United States, most of which were produced in Japan.

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