[Photo by Gemma Comas. Pictured a blast from the recent past: circa 2007 bedroom of Paul and Sara Ruffin Costello with Flowering Quince from Clarence House.]
Just to be clear, this picture is not in the book I'm currently reading, The Backstory of Wallpaper by scholar Robert M. Kelly. But Kelly's engaging intro made me think of these flowering branches covering the walls of the Costellos' bedroom from the 2000's.
Kelly begins in 1741, in Hannah Shaw's Dublin home, where a glue-pot bubbles on the fire and shears are clicking. He describes rolls of wallpaper that cascade onto a table, captivating Shaw's family, particularly 10-year old Linna Shaw who is entranced by the paper's bold red flowers. Now she'll see flowers all winter.
[Click for full view. Design by Kevin Haley. Photo by James Waddell for House & Garden, October 2004. Wallpaper by Gracie.]
If your shelves are already filled with surveys of surface design, Kelly's compact but incredibly detailed edition could be a nice companion; it's primarily a resource for those who want to understand more about the origins of wallpaper and the paper-hanging trade in the West. He deals with how it was produced, who sold it, who bought it, how it made its way to the Colonies, and who installed it.
That said, on the artistic side Kelly does devote a chapter to printmaker and member of an illustrious French manufacturing family, Jean-Michel Papillon. He also explores chinoiserie and provides a helpful glossary. I'll report back with more in the coming weeks.
Following up on a past announcement, the long-awaited catalogue penned by Emile de Bruijn, Andrew Bush, and Helen Clifford, Chinese Wallpaper in National Trust Houses, is finally here. A free download is available, or soon you should be able to purchase a hard copy from the NT shop. The authors manage to convey a complex, sweeping history in a really succinct, accessible way. And as anticipated the 50-page book is lushly illustrated.
[Melanie Acevedo photo of Erica Tanov not from the aforementioned book. Just another contemporary example I pulled.]
One of the most interesting sections, titled Winning Softness, deals with chinoiserie's feminine associations. Apparently 40 percent of the included wallpapers were in bedrooms, roughly 35 percent in dressing rooms, and approximately 25 per cent in drawing rooms.
Not to turn this post into a shopping guide, but both highlighted books would make a great graduation gift pairing for an aspiring wallpaper designer, museum educator, or curator etc.
Update: 6:17 p.m.
Read about the NT book launch over at Enfilade.