This is one of the most gorgeous and dramatic wallpapers produced during the early twentieth century. The design shows a brilliantly colored peacock perched in a cedar tree, with copious blossoms of lilac and wisteria in yellow and lavender. All of the printed colors pop against the black ground.
And note the size of the panel. Cooper Hewitt’s paper is over 67 inches high and does not contain the full repeat. When comparing this example to the piece in the Victoria & Albert Museum, which is printed on a white ground, it appears to be missing about a foot of the repeat.
This paper was first exhibited at the Ideal Home Exhibition in London during the Spring of 1910. Founded in 1908, the Ideal Home Exhibition was in the spirit of social reform and geared to stimulate the debate about better housing conditions. The Cedar Tree proved to be an extremely popular wallpaper and was shown regularly at trade exhibitions. In 1957 it was still available for purchase in three different colorways.
As you might guess the peacock and peacock feathers have proved a popular motif on wallpapers, being represented on over fifty different wallpapers in the Cooper Hewitt collection. But Stahl’s rendering is by far the most splendid, in its size, coloring, and the majesty of the bird’s posture. The lush rendering of the lavender and yellow blossoms further enhance the overall beauty of this design.
Greg Herringshaw is the Assistant Curator in Wallcoverings.