Most wallpapers designed with a water theme were intended for use in bathrooms, though given the early date of this Art nouveau border with its pond and water lilies it was possibly intended to partner with a similarly-styled wallpaper in a bedroom. Most wallpapers for the bathroom designed before 1910 appeared more hygienic due to sanitary concerns and usually had a varnished surface to resist water and facilitate washing. This border imagery creates a calm and peaceful scene with trees and flowers surrounding a tranquil pond. The selection of colors including mauve, blue, and green enhance this ambiance. There is also what appears to be a road, with a circular perfection, or possibly a manicured sandy shore. The mauve color used to print the sky has been infused with mica powder which adds a little sparkle or metallic effect.
It is interesting to note the differing scale of the plant motifs, with the blue flower in the foreground being quite large, the water lilies slightly smaller, then the two tiny trees standing next to the pond. One tree is printed in green, the other mauve, with each outlined in a contrasting color. Each of the elements are rendered very flat offering little to no perspective. The blue flowers in the front are printed in three colors, four if you include the metallic gold outline, as are the white lilies, while the flowers behind the pond are printed as mere silhouettes, and at a much smaller scale. The differing scale and amount of detail in the motifs helps create a sense of depth. This also helps break the monotony given the short repeat of the design. Whether used in a washroom or bedroom this border would help create that moment of respite always appreciated on a busy day.
Greg Herringshaw is the Assistant Curator of the Wallcoverings Department