'Figured Paper for Hanging Rooms': The manufacture, design and consumption of wallpapers for English domestic interiors, c.1740-c.1800

Taylor, Clare (2010). 'Figured Paper for Hanging Rooms': The manufacture, design and consumption of wallpapers for English domestic interiors, c.1740-c.1800. PhD thesis The Open University.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.21954/ou.ro.0000ed2a


This thesis focuses on paper hangings, an hitherto understudied material in comparison to other components of the Eighteenth century domestic interior. Drawing on recent theories of consumption and the nature of domestic space, the thesis uses study of extant and reconstructed schemes, surviving papers and archival material to illuminate the material's increasingly important role in decoration during the second half of the century. Papers studied include Chinese papers and English papers in the Chinese style, English papers imitating architectural, sculpted and painted ornament and late century English and imported prints and panelled schemes.

Three key issues are examined. Firstly, the thesis focuses attention on the structure of the trade, constructing a new model for understanding the way in which the manufacture, retailing, distribution and hanging of papers was organised. Examining the role of imports as well as the rapid expansion of the domestic trade, the thesis argues that control of this trade was contested by both new, and established, trades involved in decoration.

Secondly, the role of design is analysed, particularly in terms of the relationship between imitation and innovation. Study of papers' sources further illuminates this issue, for example by examining how far English manufacturers sought to imitate Chinese originals and also how some Chinese papers rework European models. The relationship with other types of wall decoration and three dimensional ornament is also considered; the argument here is that far from merely copying printed designs, papers appropriated design sources from stucco, ceramics and textiles.

Thirdly, and finally, aspects of consumption are examined. The thesis investigates how far the selection of paper supports the argument that the period witnessed increased differentiation of space, by gender or function. It questions easy distinctions between the choices of male and female consumers, arguing that both negotiated the materials' positive and negative associations.

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