Archive for the ‘Prints’ Category

The backstory of wallpaper

October 15, 2013
The Print Room at Blickling Hall, containing 52 European prints in paper frames, originally hung in the late eighteenth century and restored in 1974. ©National Trust Images/Nadia Mackenzie

The Print Room at Blickling Hall, containing 52 European prints in paper frames, originally hung in the late eighteenth century and restored in 1974. ©National Trust Images/Nadia Mackenzie

I have been perusing the recently-published book The Backstory of Wallpaper: Paper-Hangings 1650-1750. The book investigates the history of wallpaper from the perspective of its makers, sellers and hangers and is written by Robert M. Kelly, a historic wallpaper consultant and installer based in Lee, Berkshire County, Massachusetts.

Cupid after Angelica Kauffman, one of the pictures in the Print Room at Blickling. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond Downloaded

Cupid after Angelica Kauffman, one of the pictures in the Print Room at Blickling. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond Downloaded

Robert’s biography to date is wonderfully picaresque and includes teaching guitar in south side Chicago in 1968, a stint in a commune in the Rocky Mountains and working as a house-painter and paper-hanger in Munich (Bavaria, not North Dakota) before returning to the USA and becoming increasingly skilled and knowledgeable in the field of historic paint finishes and wallpapers.

The Chinese Room at Erddig, created in the 1770s, with Chinese pictures pasted onto its walls. ©National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

The Chinese Room at Erddig, created in the 1770s, with Chinese pictures pasted onto its walls. ©National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

One of the subjects discussed in The Backstory of Wallpaper is the development of the ‘print room’, the eighteenth-century practice of decorating walls by pasting prints with decorative borders onto them.

One of the Chinese paintings on paper used in the Chinese Room at Erddig. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

One of the Chinese paintings on paper used in the Chinese Room at Erddig. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

As Robert describes, some of these print rooms were made up with Chinese pictures and prints, as in the case of the 88 ‘Indian pictures’ hung by cabinetmaker Benjamin Goodison for the Countess of Cardigan (later Duchess of Montagu) in 1742.

Another Kauffman Cupid in the Print Room at Blickling. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

Another Kauffman Cupid in the Print Room at Blickling. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

Horace Walpole seems to have used European prints in a similar way at Strawberry Hill in 1753, and interestingly he describes them as hung in the ‘new manner invented by Lord Cardigan’.

Rectangular Chinese picture on paper showing a stage in the production of silk. in the Chinese Room at Erddig. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

Rectangular Chinese picture on paper showing a stage in the production of silk. in the Chinese Room at Erddig. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

The research for the forthcoming catalogue of Chinese wallpapers in the houses of the National Trust has suggested that such ‘Pinterest-style’ use of prints may have been the inspiration for the development of ‘proper’ Chinese wallpaper. However, print rooms using Chinese pictures remained popular even after the development of Chinese wallpaper – as usual, history refuses to follow a straighforwardly logical path.

An eighteenth-century Pinterest board at Uppark

June 20, 2013
The Print Room at Uppark. ©National Trust Images/Geoffrey Frosh

The Print Room at Uppark. ©National Trust Images/Geoffrey Frosh

The eighteenth-century Print Room at Uppark was completely destroyed in the 1989 fire. By a very lucky coincidence, however, the prints and their straw-coloured backing paper had been removed for conservation, so it was possible to put them back when the room was restored.

©National Trust Images/John Hammond

©National Trust Images/John Hammond

The prints seem to have been originally hung in the late eighteenth century, and there is a record of Sir Matthew Fetherstonhaugh, the owner of Uppark, paying £51 5s to ‘Mrs Vivaro for Prints’ in 1774. The prints are mostly after Italian, Flemish and Spanish old master paintings, although there is also one of a ‘contemporary’ Reynolds painting showing the actor David Garrick.

The cut-out watercolours of flowers in terracotta pots seem to have been added in the early nineteenth century, during the time of Sir Matthew’s widow (and erstwhile dairy maid) Mary Ann, Lady Fetherstonhaugh.

©National Trust Images/John Hammond

©National Trust Images/John Hammond

The practice of sticking prints directly to the walls surrounded by decorative paper borders and other trompe l’oeil decorations seems to have originated around 1750. It may be related to the contemporary taste for decorating rooms with arrangements of Chinese prints and paintings on paper.

It also reminds me of the recent emergence of Pinterest and other personalised online image collections, which clearly are part of a venerable tradition (and which I have previously posted about).

An intellectual’s scrap screen

November 26, 2010

The scrap screen created by Jane Carlyle in 1849, in the drawing room at 24 Cheyne Row. ©NTPL/John Hammond

Alan Carroll’s recent mention of print rooms reminded me of the scrap screen created by Jane Carlyle at Carlyle’s House in Cheyne Row, London. Jane was the wife of the Victorian critic and historian Thomas Carlyle, but she was also a lively intellectual in her own right.

©NTPL/John Hammond

The prints on the screen seem to be mainly of famous places, famous works of art and famous people – perhaps an echo of Thomas’s interest in ‘great men’ as expressed in his later book  On Heroes, Hero-Worship, and the Heroic in History.

The front door of 24 Cheyne Row. ©NTPL/Nadia Mackenzie

Thomas and Jane Carlyle moved to London in 1834 and settled in then unfashionable Chelsea, where they would remain for the rest of their lives.

The back dining room in a watercolour by Helen Allingham, 1881. ©NTPL/John Hammond

The Carlyles received many of the leading lights of the day at their house, including Dickens, Tennyson, Browning, Thackeray, Ruskin and Darwin.

Intellectual flowers? Detail of the wallpaper in the parlour. ©NTPL/John Hammond

The Carlyles’ marriage was often difficult, although they retained an affection for one another.

Jane Carlyle. ©NTPL/John Hammond

Thomas Carlyle was an important nineteenth-century thinker who criticised the then commonplace worship of progress, although his nihilism made him an isolated figure. Jane is regarded as one of the most witty and observant letter writers in the English language.

The house and its contents, including the Carlyles’  furniture, books, portraits and personal relics were given to the National Trust by the Carlyle’s House Memorial Trust in 1936.

Through Japanese eyes

April 29, 2010

Lindisfarne Castle in the snow, by Takumasa Ono. ©NTPL/Takusama Ono

Takumasa Ono is an artist working in two traditions.

View of Mt Fuji from downtown Edo, by Ando Hiroshige (1797-1858), at Cragside, Northumberland. ©NTPL/Derrick E. Witty

On the one hand his work is reminiscent of the ukiyo-e school of Japanese printmaking, with its dramatic perspectives, striking silhouettes, and sensitivity to the seasons.

Belton House, by Takumasa Ono. ©NTPL/Takusama Ono

On the other hand his pictures remind one of the British tradition of country house views, showing the house as the focal point of the landscape.

Belton House, English School, c. 1720. Acquired with the help of the National Heritage Memorial Fund, 1984. ©NTPL/John Hammond

For a number of years now Mr Ono has been travelling around Britain making ‘portrait’s of National Trust properties. Each picture is a highly personal take on a particular place.

Woolsthorpe Manor (Isaac Newton's birthplace), by Takumasa Ono. ©NTPL/Takumasa Ono

Mr Ono is almost like one of those eighteenth century travellers seeking out picturesque views to sketch and paint.

A garden in spring, by Ando Hiroshige (1797-1858), at Cragside, Northumberland. ©NTPL/Derrick E. Witty

But instead of using a Claude glass to give a classical tinge to the view, he brings a subtle Japanese perspective to the image. In Japan, too, there was a tradition of making pictures of ‘famous places’.

Lyme Park in the snow, by Takumasa Ono. ©NTPL/Takumasa Ono

This year Mr Ono will be showing his work at the following National Trust properties:

  • 30 April – 18 May: Ickworth House (Suffolk)
  • 28 May – 13 June: Dinefwr Park and Castle (Carmarthenshire)
  • 26 June – 11 July: Hanbury Hall (Worcestershire)
  • 23 July – 6 August: Speke Hall (Liverpool)
  • 18 August – 5 September: Baddesley Clinton (Warwickshire)
  • 8 September – 26 September: Wightwick Manor (West Midlands)

Farmers working in rice fields in the rain, by Ando Hiroshige (1797-1858), at Scotney Castle, Kent. ©NTPL/John Hammond

Prints can also be purchased directly through his website. An interview with Mr Ono in The Artist can be read here.

Barbara of It’s About Time has just posted some beautiful photographs of Lindisfarne Castle (the Ono print of which is at the top of this post).


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