Victorian Wallpaper Wallcoverings
In the past, walls were decorated in some fashion, usually by painting directly upon the plaster. Later, tapestries, silk and paneling took the place of this fresco work and in the homes of the wealthy, giving a beautiful decorative background for the architectural finish and detail of the other furnishings. Cottages and smaller homes in the early Victorian era were ordinarily plain plaster. Distinctions in social standing were apparent in the differences between the furnishings and wallcoverings of a grand mansion and farmhouse. Machine made paper arose in the 19th century, with the more exquisite patterns featuring designs by Walter Crane and William Morris.
Victorian Arts Crafts Designs
Walter Crane was one of the most important designers of the Arts and Crafts movement. He developed his figurative style through his picture-books for children, for which he is famous. The best known of his works, Baby’s Opera and The First of May are revelations in their own way. But Crane was always, and in everything, a decorator. His gift as an ornamental designer and decorator are apparent in his Walter Crane Arts and Crafts designs in Victorian wallpaper. Crane designed many exquisite patterns of wallpaper, some which are still reproduced today to decorate homes. Crane designed elaborate schemes of decoration in wallpaper — friezes, fields, dados, and ceilings — block-printed or stamped and gilded.
This is an example of an 1889 wallpaper decoration in Elder s Granites. The color represented is one of twelve available in their line of embossed wallpapers.
There was no end to the variety of designs and colors at the disposal of the Victorian decorator and no design was too difficult to be reproduced by the splendid machinery of the 19th century wallpaper manufacturer. A 1880s painting and decorating magazine provided a few examples out of the endless wealth of artistic wallpapers produced at that time:
No. I — An intricate wallpaper pattern with a cream ground with embossed golden wheat and blue corn-flowers.
No. 2 — A warm cheering paper featuring a bright saffron scale pattern with saffron floral scrolls on a dark yellow ground.
No. 3 — Somber mosaic arabesque wallpaper in dark red, blue and green, all on an old gold mosaic ground.
No. 4 — Victorian wallpaper highlighting golden vases with garlands of flowers on bright Nile blue and cream grounds.
Walter Crane Wallpaper Design Swan Rush and Iris
No. 5 — Wallpaper with a charming suggestion of nature featuring ponds of gold and green wavelets with gold and green waterfowl, lily pads, leaves and sedges interspersed with ferns and gray-green buds, berries and leaves, with clusters of pink and gold wild roses, all on a gray ground.
No. 6 — Gold leaves and stems springing out of an emerald-green oval panel outlined in thin bands of brilliant pale scarlet on a dazzling maroon ground.
N0. 7 — A shimmering white Arabic flock design on a pale vitreous sea-green ground. A wallpaper pattern full of culture, poetry and beauty.
No. 8 — Heavily-stamped plush wallpaper with large rich figure of creamy white, on a ground of coppery gold, forming, perhaps, the noblest and most beautiful combination of all colors.
No. 9 — A Japanese leather paper on which vines with spreading leaves, tendrils and fruit were embossed and colored in imitation of carved ivory. Every twig and tendril was as sharp and solid as if laboriously carved from the ivory itself.
No. 10 — A Japanese inspiration wallpaper pattern with a flight of cranes on a salmon-trout-colored ground, with intertwining foliage of willow green, the cranes deep violet and black, with the light figured on their wings by gold reflections, the conventional Japanese apple blossom with gnarled and knotted wood on a ground of mat gold, imitating lacquer.