Vol. 1, No. 3: Wallpaper Values


I. The Values of “The English Wallpaper Trade 1750-1830” (P. Mapes)

II. The Values of Wallpaper In America (C. Lynn)

III. Comparisons

IV. The Values of “Toward A Material History of Wallpaper” (B. Jacqué)


Here’s a sketch about what Lynn and Mapes bring to bear and have in common: first, they often mention “values.” But despite this I find no consistent sense in the works under consideration that the remarkable continuity of wallpaper over 350 years is a cause for celebration. Instead, wallpaper becomes a sermon within their respective topics. Lynn’s topic is how wallpaper, through the medium of design, fills a role as applied art. Mapes’ topic is how wallpaper fits into consumer studies, whether those are social, economic, or decorative. Wallpaper illustrates their topics.

Lynn’s arguments follow cumulative and linear lines. Mapes’ methods are largely inferential. They depend on original work and on her interpretation of the work of many others. I intend no disparagement of anyone, or anyone’s work. But I am bound to say that I find many of the results dangling from the ends of Mapes’ inferential chains unconvincing.

On this account the failings of the thesis are mainly in execution; whereas the failings in WIA stem from a flawed premise: that wallpaper is a decorative art. My definition, which I will flesh out in future issues, comes from a very different perspective: I believe that wallpaper is a household object. Probably each of these authors would agree that wallpaper is a household object. But, wallpaper as a decorative art is clearly the center of gravity in their respective treatments.......

The essay can be accessed here:

The WALLPAPER Vol. 1, No. 3