Here is a charming wallpaper in the art deco style. The motifs are highly stylized with bright pink and fuchsia-colored birds nestled among dense gray foliage. The design is rendered in a minimal fashion, with the leaves consisting of little more than a metallic gold outline around ovals in two shades of gray, with larger clouds or flowers in a slightly darker gray appearing behind. The birds are rendered in similar fashion, with the gold outlining details of the birds features. The differing hues of the gray leaves printed against the dark gray ground color, along with the overlapping of these shapes, gives the pattern a sense of depth. What I find most interesting, however, is the gaze of the birds. I guess being birds with eyes on the sides of their heads, they are gazing out at the viewer. But if you personify the birds and imagine them seeing what’s in front of them, they appear to be gazing at the adjacent bird. This leads to a chain reaction where you start following the line of sight from one bird to the next. Interesting.

This wallpaper was initially part of a sample book that was disbound some time before it came to Cooper Hewitt. The large page size allows for the full width of the design as well as the full repeat and would have been displayed in showrooms. Leroy was one of the first French wallpaper companies to turn to machine printing. In 1858, they patented a process to improve the transfer of color on surface prints. Throughout the nineteenth century, the firm’s reputation was equal to that of Zuber et Cie. The Isidore Leroy firm is still active today.

Greg Herringshaw is the Assistant Curator in Wallcoverings

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