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Wallpaper - Perspective views of a railway station
  • Perspective views of a railway station
    Potters of Darwen
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Perspective views of a railway station

  • Object:

    Wallpaper

  • Place of origin:

    Lancashire, England (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1853 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Potters of Darwen (manufacturer)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Colour woodblock print, on paper

  • Museum number:

    E.558-1980

  • Gallery location:

    Prints & Drawings Study Room, level C, case DW, shelf 18

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Object Type
In Britain, paper printed with patterns has been used for decorating walls since the 16th century. By the late 19th century wallpapers were widely used by all classes, both in homes and in public buildings.

Social Class
In the 1850s wallpapers with pictorial patterns seem to have been very popular and were sold in large quantities. However, art educators such as Richard Redgrave and Henry Cole considered such papers to be examples of bad design because they gave the illusion of three dimensions on a flat wall surface. But despite these faults there were some critics, such as a writer in the trade journal The Builder (1851), who believed that pictorial wallpapers were suitable for 'the houses of the humbler classes of society', especially if the subject depicted was educational. Most papers of this kind have not survived, but it is likely that they were used to decorate social spaces such as railway station waiting rooms, cheap hotels or public bars.

Physical description

Sample of pictorial wallpaper with perspective representations of a railway station, frequently repeated and falsifying the perspective; Colour woodblock print, on paper.

Place of Origin

Lancashire, England (made)

Date

ca. 1853 (made)

Artist/maker

Potters of Darwen (manufacturer)

Materials and Techniques

Colour woodblock print, on paper

Marks and inscriptions

FALSE PRINCIPLES 27

Dimensions

Height: 50.5 cm, Width: 53 cm

Object history note

Produced by Potters of Darwen, Lancashire.

This wallpaper was used to demonstrate 'False Principles of Decoration' at the Museum of Ornamental Art, Marlborough House, Pall Mall, London. It is listed in the catalogue of the Marlborough House collection, issued by the Department of Science and Art, 1853.

Descriptive line

Sample of pictorial wallpaper with perspective representations of a railway station, frequently repeated and falsifying the perspective; Colour woodblock print, on paper; Used to demonstrate 'False Principles of Decoration' at the Museum of Ornamental Art, Marlborough House, Pall Mall, London; English; ca. 1853.

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Oman, Charles C., and Hamilton, Jean. Wallpapers: a history and illustrated catalogue of the collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum. London: Sotheby Publications, in association with the Victoria and Albert Museum, 1982.
The full text of the entry is as follows:

'270A
Six samples of pictorial wallpapers, used to demonstrate 'False Principles of Decoration' at the Museum of Ornamental Art, Marlborough House, Pall Mall, London; four of the samples bearing labels with the numbers etc
Listed in the catalogue of the Marlborough House collection, issued by the Department of Science and Art, 1853
Colour prints from wood blocks, and some machine printing
53.5 x 53 cm (average size)
E.558-563-1980 E.558 neg CT 8749 (see col pl, p 156)

no 27 Perspective representations of a railway station, frequently repeated and falsifying the perspective (produced by Potters of Darwen)
E.558
no 31 Perspective representations of architecture
E.559
[no 32]? Imitations of a picture repeated all over a wall, although it could be correctly seen from only one point
E.560
no35 Horses, water, and ground floating in the air; landscape in perspective
E.561
no 36 Objects in high relief; perspective representations of architecture employed as decoration for a flat surface
E.562
[no 36a] Perspective representations of battles frequently repeated
E.563

Another piece of the pattern no 28, described in the catalogue as 'Perspective representation of the Crystal Palace and Serpentine; with flights of steps and architectural framework, causing the same error as in No. 27', is in the Department of Prints and Drawings
(E.158-1934)'
Oman, Charles C. and Hamilton, Jean. Wallpapers: a history and illustrated catalogue of the collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum. London: Sotheby Publications, in association with the Victoria and Albert Museum, 1982.
The full text of the entry is as follows:

'271
Crystal Palace seen through a garden archway
Probably produced by Heywood, Higginbottom & Smith, Manchester
Circa 1853-55
Colour machine print
99.4 x 53.4 cm (panel)
E.158-1934 CT 4209 (see col pl, p 181)
See also no 270A'

NB: The 'no 207A' referred to above is V&A objects E.558-563-1980
Saunders, Gill. Wallpaper in Interior Decoration. V&A Publications. London. 2002. pp. 101. pl 84.
Lambert, Susan (ed.) Pattern & Design: Designs for the Decorative Arts 1480-1980 London: Victoria and Albert Museum, 1983
The full text of the entry is as follows:

'4.1 Wallpapers, English. c.1853.

Five samples used to demonstrate 'False Principles of Decoration' at the Museum of Ornamental Art, Marlborough House, Pall Mall, London: three of the samples bearing labels with the numbers etc. listed in the catalogue of the Marlborough House Collection, issued by the Department of Science and Art, 1853.

Colour prints from wood blocks, and some machine printing.
Average size 53.5 x 53 cm E. 158-1934; 99.4 x 53.3 cm
E.558-1980; E.158-1934; E.560-562-1980

No.27 'Perspective representations of a railway station, frequently repeated and falsifying the perspective.'
Produced by Potters of Darwen.
E.558

No.28 'Perspective representations of the Crystal Palace and Serpentine; with flights of steps and architectural framework, causing the same error as in No.27'. Probably produced by Heywood, Higginbottom & Smith, Manchester, c.1853-55.
E.158-1934

[No.32]? 'Imitation of a picture repeated all over a wall, although it could be correctly seen from only one point.'
E.560

No.35 'Horses, water, and ground floating in the air; landscape in perspective.'
E.561

No. 36 'Objects in high relief; perspective representations of architecture employed as decoration for a flat surface.'
E.562

Literature: C.C. Oman and J. Hamilton, Wallpapers, a history and illustrated catalogue of the collection in the Victoria and Albert Museum, 1982, nos.270A, 271.

Obviously the Museum of Ornamental Art concentrated on what those involved saw as objects displaying the 'correct principles of design', but for a short while the first room was devoted to a demonstration of what was termed Examples of False Principles in Decoration: 'a collection of articles such as are of daily production, which are only remarkable for their departure from every law and principle, and some even from the plainest common sense, in their decoration'. The correct principles for paper-hangings were said to be:

'1 The decoration of paper-hangings bears the same relation to the objects in a room, that a background does to the objects in a picture.
2 It should not, therefore, be such as to invite attention to itself - but be subdued in effect, and without strong contrasts either of form, colour or light and dark.
3 Nothing should be introduced which disturbs the sense of flatness.
4 All natural objects, therefore, when used as ornament for these manufactures, should be rendered conventionally flat and in simple tints.
5 While the decorative details should be arranged on symmetrical bases, these should be so resolved into the minor forms as not to be intrusively prominent.
6 Colour should be broken over the whole surface so as to give a general negative hue - rather than masses of positive colour.'

How the wallpaper exhibited here departed from these principles was explained in the catalogue entries, quoted in the descriptions given above.

Other objects submitted to this derisive treatment included a pair of scissors in imitation of a stork with the beak opening the reverse way, 'glass tortured out of its true quality to make it into a cup of a lily or an anemone' and a gas burner with 'Gas flaming from the petal of a convolvulus'. 9

9 Quotations from a Department of Science and Art, A Catalogue of the Museum of Ornamental Art, at Marlborough House, Pall Mall, For the use of Students and Manufacturers, and the Public, 1853.'

Labels and date

British Galleries:
Sixteen wallpaper samples in a 'variety of miserable patterns' were included in the selection of False Principles. They were intended to demonstrate patterns which were too bright, repetitive and naturalistic to work suitably as wallpaper. In this example the repetition and three dimensional nature of the pattern horrified Cole. [27/03/2003]

Production Note

This wallpaper sample was used to demonstrate 'False Principles of Decoration' at the Museum of Ornamental Art, Marlborough House, Pall Mall, London. It was listed in the catalogue of the Marlborough House collection, issued by the Department of Science and Art, 1853.

Materials

Paper

Techniques

Colour woodblock print

Subjects depicted

Buildings; People; Bridges (built works); Railway stations

Categories

Prints; Wall coverings

Collection code

PDP

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Qr_O78229
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