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A brief history of Wallpaper

August 20th, 2019

Category: WB Jamieson

Author: Darren Seymour

Wallpaper is a material we are all familiar as a product used to decorate interiors. We have a large selection of wallpapers by various manufacturers, designers and makers. From the likes of: 

But we wanted to delve a little into the history of wallpaper... 

History of Wallpaper

Wallpaper has been around for literally hundreds of years. To understand its origins we must look to Jean Bourdichon who painted 50 rolls of paper with angels on a blue coloured background for Louis XI of France in 1481. Louis ordered the paper be portable as frequently moved from castle to castle. This became a trend for other wealthy property owners from Europe who also began to commission artists to paint paper for their walls. However it was not until the advent of the printing press that wallpaper as we now understand it, came into existence.

The earliest existing piece of wallpaper dates back to 1509 which came from the Lodge of Christ's college in Cambridge. An italian inspired pomegranite design by a printer by the name of Hugo Goes from York.

Hugo Goes - Original wallpaper fragment 16th century

Hugo Goes - Wallpaper the oldest surviving fragment.

90 years later the first guild of paperhangers was established in France.

Jean-Michel Papillon, a man who is considered the inventor of wallpaper began making designs with continuous patterns and so the modern idea of what Wallpaper is was born.

The first block engraving by Jean-Michel Papillon (1707)
Jean-Michel Papillon: Poppies engraving 

Designers started to experiment with texture in their papers. By 1680 Flocked wallpaper was introduced from Worchester.

Early example of flocked wallpaper

An early example of Flocked wallpaper

Most of the manufacturing methods of significance were developed by the English. At first, Londoners wanted their walls to imitate the grand materials used in public buildings like stucco and marble. Over time, wallpaper became popular on its own merit, with flocked papers that looked like cut velvet very much in vogue.

In 1778 Louis XVI issued a royal decree that required the length of a roll of wallpaper to be about 34 feet.

Fast-forward to the Victorian era and after many advancements in printing and paper manufacture. Wallpaper was not widely used with budget versions meaning it was within everyones grasp of owning which contributed to the ubiquity of wallpaper. 

The artist William Morris and Louis Comfort Tiffany used traditional methods of printing with woodblock which came to symbolise the Art Nouveau movement.

William Moris - Art Nouveau Wallpaper

William Morris - Art Nouveau Wallpaper 

Although the Victorians certainly loved to adorn their interiors with wallpaper, it was the roaring 20's that really saw the explosion of wallpaper and what has come to be known as the Golden Age of Wallpaper. During this period, approximately 400 million rolls of wallpaper were produced and sold.

 1920s - Art Deco Wallpaper
1920's Art Deco Wallpaper 

After World War II the Wallpaper industry was revolutionised by the availability of plastic resin which mean that wallpaper was now more durable with stain resistance, it was clean-able and was far stronger than its purely paper predecessor. 

wallpaper after the war utilised plastic resin for increased strength and durability
Typical 1960's 'flower-power' wallpaper which has the benefits of plastic resin.

In the 80's, the modernist movement influenced everything from fashion, art, design to interiors and architecture. Modernism is concerned with clean lines and forms, meaning that embellishment was frowned upon for much of the 20th century and wallpaper ultimately fell out of favour. 

Today, we are experiencing a resurgence in wallpaper or wall-coverings to be more precise (the advancement in technology means that there are many more materials involved than paper). The renaissance of wallpaper has perhaps come about as an aversion to sterile or bland environments which have become the norm. Wallpaper allows for expression and creativity. Not to dismiss the huge advances in technology in many fields including digital, photography and printing which has opened up new frontiers in design as well as excellent reproductions of traditional, and historic wallpapers.

Unlike paintings, murals, frescos, tapestries and hand-painted papers of the past, wallpapers are superior in durability, maintenance and are much more affordable than those means of embellishment that came before them.

Prestigious textiles wallcovering available from WB Jamieson
Prestigious Textiles wallcovering with a contemporary design available from WB Jamieson

Black Edition Wallcovering available from WB Jamieson

More contemporary wallpaper from Prestigious Textiles at WB Jamieson

 Visit our showroom to browse our range of wallpapers or call us for more information on specific products or samples.


Call: 01358 742086




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