Designers love scenic wallpaper for its ability to transform a room. Unlike regular wallpaper, which often has a repeating pattern, scenic wallpaper fills an entire wall with a single, mural-like image. Usually depicting an outdoor tableau, the wallpaper brings nature inside and lends old-world appeal to a space. Just flip through any recent design magazine and you’ll probably see a well-appointed room with walls covered in large-scale images of flowering vines or swaying trees.
“People embrace things that feel handmade and have a link to the past,” says Susan Harter, who makes hand-painted scenic wallpaper in her Port Townsend, Wash., studio. “At a time when we’re being bombarded with technology, it’s nice to be in a haven of one’s own making. It’s like entering a peaceful mini-Eden.”
Until recently, if you wanted the look, you had to splurge on custom wallcoverings from luxury brands such as Zuber et Cie, Gracie Studio, de Gournay and Fromental. Those handmade paper or silk panels can cost thousands of dollars, and that’s without installation.
But scenic wallpaper has become far more accessible. Thanks to digital-printing technology that allows retailers to duplicate the look inexpensively, you no longer have to blow your entire decorating budget on a few pricey panels of chinoiserie.
High-definition printers aren’t exactly new to the luxury wallpaper business; the London-based brand Iksel has been producing high-end digital collections based on hand-painted works since 2004. And Harter’s company, Susan Harter Muralpapers, has been using the technology for several years to turn her hand-painted murals into custom canvas wallcoverings.
William Morris was born on March 24, 1834, (1834–1896) in Walthamstow, England. He was the third child of William Morris Sr. and Emma Shelton Morris. He enjoyed an idyllic childhood in the countryside, playing with his siblings, reading books, writing, and showing an early interest in nature and storytelling. His love of the natural world would have a growing influence on his later work.
At an early age he was attracted to all the trappings of the medieval period. At 4 he began reading Sir Walter Scott’s Waverley novels, which he finished by the time he was 9. His father gave him a pony and a miniature suit of armor and, dressed as a tiny knight, he went off on long quests into the nearby forest.
Later Morris attended Marlborough and Exeter colleges, where he met painter Edward Burne-Jones and poet Dante Gabriel Rossetti, forming a group known as the Brotherhood, or the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. They shared a love of poetry, the Middle Ages, and Gothic architecture, and they read the works of philosopher John Ruskin. They also developed an interest in the Gothic Revival architectural style. Their Group was inspired by Ruskin’s writings.
The Industrial Revolution that began in Britain had turned the country into something unrecognizable to the young men. Ruskin wrote about society’s ills in books such as “The Seven Lamps of Architecture” and “The Stones of Venice.” The group discussed Ruskin’s themes about the impacts of industrialization: how machines dehumanize, how industrialization ruins the environment, and how mass production creates shoddy, unnatural objects.
The group believed that the artistry and honesty in handcrafted materials were missing in British machine-made goods. They longed for an earlier time.
Visits to the continent spent touring cathedrals and museums solidified Morris’ love of medieval art. Rossetti persuaded him to give up architecture for painting, and they joined a band of friends decorating the walls of the Oxford Union with scenes from the Arthurian legend based on “Le Morte d’Arthur” by 15th century English writer Sir Thomas Malory. Morris also wrote much poetry during this time.
After receiving his degree in 1856, Morris took a job in the Oxford office of G.E. Street, a Gothic Revivalist architect. That year he financed the first 12 monthly issues of The Oxford and Cambridge Magazine, where a number of his poems were printed. Two years later, many of these poems were reprinted in his first published work “The Defence of Guenevere and Other Poems.”
Also known as a writer and poet, translator, social activist, printer and dyer, Morris originally trained as an architect and had early ambitions to become a painter.Morris commissioned Philip Webb, an architect he had met in Street’s office, to build a home for him and his wife. The building’s design was a co-operative effort, with Morris focusing on the interiors and the exterior being designed by Webb, for whom the House represented his first commission as an independent architect. Named after the red bricks and red tiles from which it was constructed, Red House rejected architectural norms by being L-shaped. Influenced by various forms of contemporary Neo-Gothic architecture, the House was nevertheless unique, with Morris describing it as “very mediaeval in spirit”. Situated within an orchard, the house and garden were intricately linked in their design. It took a year to construct.
In fact William Morris often said that when looking into his wallpaper designs they should appear to be 3 inches deep. This illusion of depth was created by his clever use of floral and fauna. He would layer these images to make it seem as if there was space beyond. So by using William Morris wallpaper you may even make a room feel a bit bigger .
The house, a grand yet simple structure, exemplified the Arts and Crafts philosophy inside and out, with craftsman-like workmanship and traditional, unornamented design. Then, together with some of his Pre-Raphaelite friends he furnished and decorated the new abode. It was such an enjoyable experience that they decided to set up their own company in London supplying a range of domestic furnishings — embroidery, tableware, furniture, stained glass and tiles (initially called Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Co — later simply Morris & Co). It was also because of his inability to find wallpapers that he liked enough for his own home that Morris turned his hand to designing his own, and these were added to the company catalogue.
The British Library has loaned 20 paintings and manuscripts to the Wallace Collection in London for the “Forgotten Masters” exhibition, running through April 2020. Included are a selection of four works by the relatively unknown artist Haludar, whose natural history drawings are on display for the very first time.
When the exhibition curator William Darymple started scoping paintings to be included in the exhibition, I brought to his attention the natural history drawings in the collection commissioned by the Scottish surgeon Dr Francis Buchanan-Hamilton – 1762–1829, hereafter referred to as Buchanan – at the turn of the 19th century. When I showed him the delicate paintings of a moloch gibbon, a sloth bear, a long-tailed macaque and the gerbils painted by the artist Haludar, Dalrymple was intrigued and we started considering the conservation aspects in displaying these works for the first time.
In researching the Buchanan collection at the British Library, which consists of several hundred natural history alongside countless volumes of his notes, I met with Dr Ralf Britz an ichthyologist, or fish scientist, at the Natural History Museum, who was working on Buchanan’s volume on Fishes of the Ganges held in the British Library. When I mentioned my plans to work on the drawings of mammals in the Library’s collection and researching the artist Haludar, he immediately sent me a scientific article by the French zoologist Henri de Blainville. In 1816, de Blainville wrote in the science bulletin, par la Société philomathique de Paris, that a new species of Cervus niger could be identified “after a very beautiful coloured drawing that was completed on site by Haludar, an Indian painter”. After reading this article, I started to look at other early 19th century periodicals to see if any other zoologists were looking at de Blainville’s work or by chance also mentioned Haludar.
I discovered that in 1819, the German naturalist Lorenz Oken’s periodical Isis also made reference to Cervus niger, stating it was “painted on the spot by the master painter Haludar”. Both references to Cervus niger, which is an Indian Sambar deer, provided only brief descriptions of the species, and omitted to give details regarding the source of the scientific information as well as the location of the artwork by Haludar. However, in cross-referencing C niger with Haludar, we are directed to a single drawing in the British Library’s collection that was commissioned by Francis Buchanan inscribed with the artist’s name, that had been deposited at the Company’s library on Leadenhall Street, London in 1808. This painting of Cervus niger is one of 28 natural history drawings now held in the British Library that are inscribed Haludar Pinxt and that were prepared between 1795 and 1818, when Buchanan was working as a surgeon for the East India Company and actively documenting botanical and zoological specimens during his travels across the subcontinent.
In the year 1612, Jahangir, the fourth emperor of the South Asian Islamic-Mughal dynasty, was presented with a bird he had never seen or heard of before—the turkey.
But it wasn’t known by that name yet. In fact, turkeys (native to the Americas) would be called many different names as they passed through early modern trade networks, highlighting the ways in which commodities, ideas, words, and people floated freely.
Jahangir’s turkey was among the rarities that Muqurrab Khan, a high-ranking Mughal official, had purchased for the emperor from Portuguese traders at port city of Goa, located on India’s western coast.
The Portuguese, along with the Spanish, operated trading operations in the Indian and Atlantic oceans. Their cargoes carried exquisite goods –gemstones, spices, fruits, vegetables, textiles, and animals – from and to the ‘new’ world (North and South America), Southeast Asia, and South Asia.
Abu’l Qasim Firdausi (935–1020) ca. 1330–40 Iran, probably Isfahan Ink, opaque watercolor, gold, and silver on paper A manuscript illustration reflecting the traditional, highly formalised, Islamic style.
Muhammad Siyah Qalam 15th century Central Asia Black, red, blue ink on paper Topkapi Salayi Library A representative example of Muhammad Siyah Qalam illustrations
The paintings associated with Muhammad Siyah Qalam constitute, in their originality and strange subject matter, a striking aberration in the Islamic pictorial tradition. Unlike the book illustrations most immediately associated with Islamicate painting, with their highly formalized, almost didactic imagery, these expressive and imaginative compositions eschew convention. Dating to approximately the 15th century, these paintings depict nomadic people and demons in a style that incorporates elements of Persian, Indian, and Chinese artistic traditions. Sixty-five works originally collected in two albums, the Ya’qub beg Album and the Fatih Album, at the Topkapi Palace in Turkey, bear signatures attributing the works…
For all its transcendental appeals, art has always been inextricably grounded in the material realities of its production, an entwinement most evident in the intriguing history of artists’ colours. Focusing in on painting’s primary trio of red, yellow, and blue, Philip Ball explores the science and stories behind the pigments, from the red ochre of Lascaux to Yves Klein’s blue.
Having taken many centuries to figure out what the primary colours are, we are now in the process of abandoning them. The very notion of primaries can now spark furious arguments among colour specialists. Some point out that the trio many of us learnt at school — red, yellow and blue — applies only to mixing pigments; mix light, as in the pixels of television screens, and you need different primaries (roughly, red, blue, green). But if you print with inks, you use another “primary” system: yellow, cyan and magenta. And in the rainbow spectrum of visible light, there’s no hierarchy at all: no reason to promote yellow light above the slightly longer-wavelength orange.
What’s more, even though painters learn how to mix colours — blue and yellow to give a green, say — they quickly learn that the results can be disappointingly muddy compared to a “pure” pigment with the intended colour: it’s especially hard to get a rich purple from red and blue. As a result, artists often think of colour not so much as an abstract property but in terms of the substance that makes it: madder red, ultramarine blue, cadmium yellow. To truly understand what colour means to the artist, we need to think of its materiality. Or to put it another way, what the artist’s palette is capable of producing has always depended on the materials at his or her disposal, and the ingenuity that went into procuring them.
That ingenuity has never been lacking. During the last Ice Age life was nasty, brutish and short, yet humans still found time for art. Tools dated to around one hundred thousand years ago have been found in Blombos Cave on the coast of South Africa: grindstones and hammer-stones for crushing a natural red ochre pigment, and abalone shells for mixing the powder with animal fat and urine to make a paint that would be used to decorate bodies, animal skins, and perhaps cave walls. The paintings made 15-35 millennia ago at Chauvet, Lascaux and Altamira attest to the genuine artistry that early humans achieved using the colours readily to hand: black charcoal, white chalk and ground bone, and the earthy reds and yellows of ochre, a mineral form of iron oxide.1
But the classic red pigments don’t rely on iron minerals, the hue of which is not the glorious red of a sunset or of blood, but of the earth. For many centuries, the primary red of the palette came from compounds of two other metals: lead and mercury. The pigment known as “red lead” was made by first corroding lead with vinegar fumes, turning the surface white, and then heating that material in air. It was used in ancient China and Egypt, Greece and Rome.
For the Roman author Pliny, any bright red was called minium — but by the Middle Ages that Latin term was more or less synonymous with red lead, which was used extensively in manuscript illumination. From the verb miniare (to paint in minium) we get the term “miniature”: nothing to do, then, with the Latin minimus, “smallest”. The association today with a diminutive scale comes simply from the constraints of fitting a miniature on the manuscript page.
In the first of two exclusive video interviews with Christo, the artist explains how the giant London Mastaba installation on the Serpentine lake is the culmination of over 60 years of working with stacked barrels.
The temporary London project, which is 20 metres high and consists of 7,506 barrels, was unveiled last month. But the artwork has its genesis in experiments made by Christo, 83, and his late partner Jeanne-Claude in the fifties and sixties.
“I was born in Bulgaria and I escaped from the communist country to the west on 10 January 1957,” Christo explains in the movie, which Dezeen filmed in London. “I met Jeanne-Claude in November 1958 and we together fell in love.”
“We lived in Paris in between 58 and 64,” he continues. “I was so poor, I had no studio and I was living in one room. I started working with little cans, tin cans of industrial paint. From the cans of the smaller size, I moved to the smaller sized barrels. I rented a garage outside of Paris when I started working with real barrels.”
In 1962 he blocked a Paris street with stacked barrels in a reference to the Berlin Wall that was erected the previous year.
“I was worried the third world war would start,” Christo says. “The Soviets took over Budapest during the revolution [in 1956] but I escaped and there was a big turmoil. I remember I was very scared that they would run over West Germany and come back to Paris and I proposed to do my artistic Iron Curtain in the smallest street, in the Rue Visconti, of the left bank of Paris.”
The colourful painting has become a memorial site for Minneapolis residents to honour Floyd and mourn his death.
As protests against the murder of Minneapolis resident George Floyd continue, a group of local artists created a mural to commemorate the slain 46-year-old at the street corner where he was choked to death by a police officer on Monday, May 25.
“I can’t breathe,” Floyd pleaded with the four officers who arrested him on Monday morning as he was handcuffed and pinned to the ground. One of the officers, Derek Chauvin, was recorded on camera pressing his knee over Floyd’s neck until the unarmed man stopped moving and needed to be delivered to a hospital.
Floyd was declared dead at 9:25pm that day. The four officers who were involved in his arrest were fired on Tuesday. Since mass protests have erupted in Minneapolis and across the country as protesters demand the court system and government bring Chauvin to justice and address the issue of police brutality against Black citizens. But it wasn’t until today, March 29, that Chauvin was arrested and charged with murder.
It’s often said that we are a product of those closest to us. Growing up on the outskirts of Johannesburg in the Tsakane township, it was three women who shaped the man Tshepo Mohala would become.
Denim designer Tshepo Mohala grew up watching his mother grind to give him the opportunity of a good education, he listened to his pastor grandmother’s stories of hope that transported him back to 1945, and he admired his cool aunty who dressed for the red carpet. “I don’t know if you remember Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake’s Canadian tuxedo moment at the 2001 American Music Awards?” Tshepo says with a smirk. “She rocked that look.”
This exposure to hard work, community and bold style would lay the foundations for Tshepo’s character and inform his namesake denim and ready-to-wear label, Tshepo the Jean Maker. In five years, the brand has grown from a Facebook page to a fan base that includes Meghan Markle and a team of 15. Its success can be chalked up to the designer’s positive outlook on life. Seldom without a smile, his energy is infectious. “If you’re willing to put yourself out there if you’re courageous, and if you really love what you do and want to leave a mark on this world then it can happen,” Tshepo tells me. It is an attitude he has learned from the powerful women around him. “I was raised by my grandmother who was a public servant in her duties as a pastor,” Tshepo says. “I watched her treat everyone in the neighbourhood with the same respect regardless of who they were. The biggest thing for me is serving the public.”
Since March of 2019, Hyperallergic has offered this monthly resource for artists and creatives to share their work and find new opportunities. The arts and culture sector has since been severely impacted by the COVID-19 crisis, making grants and paid opportunities for independent artists and cultural organizations more important than ever.
Featured image: Louis Lang, “Women’s Art Class” (ca. 1868) (courtesy the Metropolitan Museum/Open Access)