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Color My World

Edit: Zhejiang Ever-Power Decoration Co.,Ltd.      Date:Jun 11, 2017

                                   Color My World

By the beginning of the 1700s, simple black and white papers had virtually disappeared in Europe. Colored papers were in vogue, especially imported paper from China.

In France, wallpapers evolved from the end papers used in bookbinding. The first ones were printed in small squares in marbleized patterns. Eventually, the squares were glued together into a long sheet and rolled up for convenience. Wallpaper became a royal affair. In 1778, Louis XVI issued a decree that required the length of a wallpaper roll be about 34 feet.

Patterns imitated scenic tapestries, brocatelles and patterned velvets. Americans often imported these papers. For instance, the wallpaper in the Duncan House in Haverhill, MA was designed by Carle Vernet and printed in Paris about 1814. Made of separate panels, it shows a single scene of a hunt.

The French continued to innovate and invented a machine to print paper in 1785. Wallpaper design began to attract artists and not just woodblock printers. Chinese paper continued its popularity and its style of hand-painted birds, trees, pagodas and sometimes Chinese figures in landscapes became known as chinoiserie. The paper found its way into manor houses, palaces and chateaux. It was usually applied in panels and was sometimes edged with gilt. European painters copied the Chinese designs, but the French-produced papers were the most sought after. 

At first, wallpaper appeared in minor rooms while fabric continued to be used in the major ones. Use of wallpaper became so widespread that it inspired the introduction of a tax in England by 1712 on paper that was "painted, printed or stained to serve as hangings". 

Most papers of this time imitated textiles and their manufacturers boasted that they could emulate damask, velvet and needlework. One major designer of this period was John Baptist Jackson, born in 1700, and a pupil of the engraver Kirkhall. In 1725 he went to Paris and came into contact with paper stainer Jean Michel Papillon before he went on to Italy and became interested in Italian Renaissance design. In 1746, he returned to England, determined to revive English wallpaper printing, which had taken a beating from the French.

Dawn of the Designer

The French had taken over the industry. They paid their designers well and French nobility paid special commissions for custom papers. One manufacturer deserves special mention, Jean-Baptiste Réveillon, who became a "Manufacture Royale". For some years before the French Revolution, his factory in Paris produced the finest and most beautiful papers for the French aristocracy. It was attacked by the angry mob in 1789 and Réveillon fled to England. The factory reopened with the help of others who found favor with the Revolutionaries by printing patriotic papers in red, white and blue. Réveillon took his inspiration from painted decoration on wooden paneling, doors and shutters - a style originated by Raphael in the Vatican. His designs featured long vertical and graceful designs of urns, flowers, swans, birds and beasts block-printed in dozens of different colors, and flowing upward from a central motif. His papers were to be hung as panels, separated by borders and plain wallpaper sections. He also introduced papers that used strong colors - reds, ochres, terracottas, greens and azure blues - in addition to the traditional black. Classical motifs, medallions and dancing figures filled the panel area. Réveillon papers became a popular export to the US during the 1700s and can still be seen in New England homes.

A Taxing Situation

Meanwhile, back in England, wallpapers were being colored by hand on the wall to outwit the tax man. The industry continued to grow in spite of the taxes and grew strong enough that by 1773, Parliament lifted the ban on imported papers, though customs duties still applied. Taxation continued into the next century and generated a significant amount of revenue. By 1806, falsification of wallpaper stamps was added to the list of offenses punishable by death. To deal with the tax, English manufacturers sought to increase sales by catering to the mass market. They simplified their designs. This allowed the French to maintain their firm grip on the finer, more complicated designs. 

Dramatic Design

The use of wallpaper borders is almost as old as wallpaper itself. Borders, originally used to hide the tacks used to hold the wallpaper in position, assumed their own importance by the late 1700s, because they could visually alter a room's proportions. Border designs featured florals and architectural friezes. Many of these were printed to look like a cornice and hung at a junction of the wall and ceiling to add importance and grandeur to the room. Often, they were used to outline doors and windows or architectural details within the room such as a fireplace.

By the beginning of the 1800s, dividing the wall into three parts - the dado, filler and frieze - became fashionable. Borders differentiated each section, which bore distinctive yet interrelated patterns. This style is often seen in Victorian homes. 

Stripes - reminiscent of a military campaign with their military colors - became popular in Napoleonic France and in England, not only on the walls but extending to the ceilings as well. The practice spread throughout Europe. Panoramic landscapes were also popular in France. Never before had designs been attempted on such a large scale. To cover the walls of a large room without repeating a scene, 20 to 30 lengths were printed, with each length about 10 feet high and 20 inches wide (300cm by 50cm). Massive amounts of time and energy, not to mention risk, were required to print such scenes, using thousands of hand-carved blocks and hundreds of colors. For the most part, the Zuber company in Rixheim and Dufour in Mâcon and Paris produced them. In 1852, Zuber took advantage of a nationalist wave in the US and republished a previous paper, "Views of North America", as "The War of American Independence". He substituted foreground figures so the Boston Harbor became the Boston Tea Party. Peaceful scenes became battlefields.

Landscapes were not common in England as they did not accommodate the ancestral portraits the British preferred as wall decoration.