The “Views of the American War of Independence” was block printed by the French manufacturer Zuber & Cie starting in 1852 over the background of their prior scenic wallpaper called “Views of North America”; sections of both papers are housed at the Cooper Hewitt. In a complete set there are thirty-two panels, each individual panel is about eight feet tall and eighteen inches wide, making this one scene of the Battle of Weehawken comprised of six panels about nine feet wide. The above, larger view shows two additional scenes from this wallpaper.
In terms of subject matter, each scene depicts an important battle of the revolution and focuses on significant historical figures. Just like traditional monumental painting, the designer depicts important historical events that tell a larger story when observed from a specific vantage point. This scene takes place in Weehawken, New Jersey, just across the Hudson River from mid-town Manhattan. In this scene, we see a large group of soldiers heading towards an ensuing battle, dressed in muted greys and accentuated by dark hats and muskets. Further up the road, in the mid-ground, a lone figure brandishes his hat and pistol seemingly in an attempt to stir the three men in the foreground, who face away from the viewer, into action. Other panels in this set show American troops scaling a low rock face to meet the ensuing British.
The full scene of six panels is currently on display at the Cooper Hewitt as part of The Virtue in Vice exhibition that will remain on view until March 25th, 2018.
Emily Ewen 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.