Observations Made during the ConservationTreatment of Chinese Landscape Wallpaper at Oud Amelisweerd
The country house Oud Amelisweerd overlooking the river at Bunnik just outside Utrecht in the Netherlands has long been a subject of interest for conservators and historians. It was designed as a summer residence for the Baron Taets van Amerongen in 1770. There were only 3 different families who were the major occupants for the house until the Utrecht council bought it in 1951. Consequently the interior has not suffered any major modifications demanded by fashion or comfort. Of the 9 known locations in the Netherlands of complete rooms with Chinese wallpaper Oud Amelisweerd is unique in having two adjoining rooms. This contribution concerns the second of the two rooms, which contains a landscape combining hunting scenes with dragon boat races. A conservation project for this wallpaper was commissioned in 2012 and allowed a close examination of the paper. Some clues to the production methods were noted and a carefully planned “cut and paste” operation to maximise the impact of the design was revealed. The layers of previous schemes found under the paper and recently recovered pieces of the wallpaper have shifted the ideas about the date of the installation. The links that have been uncovered to near identical wallpapers at other locations and in particular the examples at the Royal Pavilion in Brighton in the UK have helped the understanding of the sequence of the scenes and has supplied information about damaged and missing pieces. The presence of ‘repeat’ designs in different locations alters the perception of Chinese wallpaper.
Thomas Brain studied Fine Art at Kingston upon Hull and after employment training with the Wordsworth Trust at Grasmere trained as a conservator of fine art on paper at the Polytechnic of Newcastle upon Tyne, graduating in 1992. Since 1993 he has worked in the Netherlands for the museum services of South and North Holland. He has worked in private practice in Leiden since 1997. Thomas has worked on Chinese wallpaper projects undertaken by the Stichting Restauratie Atelier Limburg (SRAL) including the birds and flower wallpaper at Oud Amelisweerd. Between 2004 and 2015 he has worked with fellow paper conservator Monique Staal, in the cooperative XLpapier conserving large format paper objects such as the cartoons of the stained glass windows in the Sint Jan’s Church in Gouda, the wallpapers in Castle Amerongen and the Chinese overdoors in Pavilion Welgelegen in Haarlem. In 2013 XLpapier completed the conservation of the Chinese landscape wallpaper in Oud Amelisweerd.
Emile de Bruijn
Chinese Wallpaper: a Global Product
The history of Chinese wallpaper in the west began in the seventeenth century, when Europeans developed a taste for Chinese pictures and prints. The exact origins of Chinese pictorial wallpaper is still unknown, but it seems to have appeared in the 1740s through the interaction between the European East India trading companies and Chinese craftsmen and traders in Guangzhou. European paper-hangers had to develop new techniques to install Chinese paper and to make the pictorial decoration fit particular rooms. Chinese wallpaper went through a number of stylistic mutations and remained popular in the nineteenth century. From the late nineteenth century Chinese wallpapers began to be reused as ‘antiques’, and they were particularly in demand in the United States during the first quarter of the twentieth century. After the Second World War the scientific analysis and conservation of Chinese wallpapers grew in scope and sophistication. Since the late 1980s Chinese wallpapers have also received serious art-historical scrutiny, and they are now recognised as being part of both the western and the Chinese cultural traditions.
Emile de Bruijn studied Japanese at Leiden University and museology at Essex University. He worked in the Japanese and Chinese departments of the auctioneers Sotheby’s in London before joining the National Trust, where he is now a member of the collections management team. Emile has lectured and published on various aspects of chinoiserie in historic houses and gardens. He co-authored Chinese Wallpaper in National Trust Houses (with Andrew Bush and Helen Clifford, 2014) and contributed a chapter on chinoiserie in British country houses to The Country House: Material Culture and Consumption (English Heritage, 2016). He is currently writing a book on Chinese wallpapers in Britain and Ireland.
Early Full-Height Block-Printed Chinese Wallpapers in the United Kingdom
Chinese woodblock prints, whether produced specifically for home consumption or for export, were used for interior decoration for much of the 18th century. This paper looks at the early, full height printed Chinese export wallpapers that survive in the United Kingdom. All surviving large format flowering plants and birds wallpapers, of this type, appear to have been purchased in the 1750’s. These were very large hand coloured prints, and produced from printing surfaces up to 3.28 by 1.27 metres in size. Many of these large prints were customised by decorators to fit individual spaces and tastes, both during their original hang and subsequently during repair and consolidation after losses. Close examination of the printed image can help establish the original design and this paper establishes the minimum number of different printed designs, of this type, that were available. The surviving large format block printed wallpapers pre-date all the solely hand painted export wallpapers, which in the United Kingdom appear to have totally replaced the block printed wallpapers during the 1760’s. Reasons for this sudden change are likely to be a combination of changes in fashion, shifting production centres, the stability and deterioration of the woodblocks and the inflexibility of the printed image. Smaller repeating prints were hung later than this, and at least one large printed landscape used on a screen survives, however large format flowering plants and birds, so common in the fully hand painted wallpapers, were apparently no longer produced.
Andrew Bush graduated from the University College of North Wales with a BSc in Wood Science in 1978, and received a certificate in Paper Conservation from Camberwell School of Art and Crafts, London, in 1980. From 1980 to 1990 he worked in the Paper Conservation Section of the National Maritime Museum, London. Since 1990, as an accredited conservator, he has worked for the National Trust, first as a regional conservator, and from 2000 as their adviser on paper conservation. Andrew has a particular interest in historic wallpapers, he has published a number of articles for The Wallpaper History Review, and in 2014, co-authored Chinese Wallpaper in National Trust Houses, with Emile de Bruijn and Helen Clifford.
Dr Sarah Cheang
Red, Black, and Gold, and as Glossy as Possible: Modernism, Orientalism, Fashion and Wallpaper
When interior designers of the 1920s advised on the use of colour, there were certain combinations that spelled ‘fashion’ and ‘China’. New versions of eighteenth-century Chinese wallpapers, with large motifs, decorative borders and additional overlays, formed part of a new, popular and far-reaching resurgence in oriental glamour in the west. More avant-garde papers increased the drama and visual impact of the ‘Chinese’ look through the colours red, black and gold. Historians have often seen these interwar oriental trends as catalysed by the arrival of the Russian Ballet in Paris, but the cultural roots of early-twentieth chinoiserie wallpapers were broad and deep. This paper explores the highly synthetic nature of interwar Chinese wallpapers as a colourful, over-ornamented and historicist form of modernism, and a chinoiserie fashion enmeshed in a dynamic set of exchanges between furniture, dress and bodies.
Sarah Cheang is Senior Tutor in the History of Design at the Royal College of Art, London. Her research centres on transnational fashion, material culture and the body from the nineteenth century to the present day, on which she has published widely. Sarah has a special interest in the role of Chinese material culture within histories of Western fashion, from ‘Chinese’ hairstyles to Pekingese dogs, and her next book, Sinophilia, will explore these themes in relation to dress, the body and interior design.
Dr Patrick Conner
Chinese Wallpaper and Cantonese Export Painting: The Strathallan ‘Drummond’ Wallpaper (Peabody Essex Museum)
To what extent does the design of Chinese wallpaper imported to the West reflect contemporary fashions and practices in Chinese export painting? Were the same workshops responsible for both, or were there diverse and specialised workshops with access to the same templates? Some suggestions are offered by reference to ‘production’ scenes (tea, porcelain, rice) and large-scale views of the Hongs or Factories along the Canton waterfront, in particular the Strathallan ‘Drummond’ wallpaper (now in the Peabody Essex Museum).
Formerly Keeper of Fine Art at the Royal Pavilion and Museums, Brighton, Patrick Conner is Director of the Martyn Gregory Gallery in London. He has curated a number of loan exhibitions, in Britain and Hong Kong, exploring the relationships between Chinese and ‘Western’ cultures. His most recent books are George Chinnery 1774-1852, Artist of India and the China Coast (1993), The Hongs of Canton – Western Merchants in South China 1700-1900 (2009), and Paintings of the China Trade – the Sze Yuan Tang Collection of Historical Pictures (2013).
Chinoiserie and its modern incarnation
This paper will describe how the structure and timelessness of chinoiserie is still an influence on the wallpaper designs at Fromental today.
Lizzie Deshayes is Design Director at Fromental, a company started with her husband Tim Butcher in 2005. She has been designing wallpapers and printed surfaces as well as painting fabrics for couture gowns for near-on 20 years.
Contemporary Chinese Wallpaper Manufacture: to what Extent Have Modern Materials and Processes Changed the Time-Honoured Methods of Making Wallpapers in China for the Export Trade?
In the late 1980’s Dominic’s uncle, Claude Gurney embarked on an audacious new business venture to offer Chinese export style wallpapers from mainland China to the world once again. The story of the trials, triumphs and failures encountered and endured while building what are now 4 production studio facilities owned by de Gournay in mainland China as a private English company could fill many pages but will only be alluded to here. Instead Dominic will give an insight into the knowledge de Gournay found in China in the 1980’s, its strengths and also shortcomings and how methods of production have been improved with traditional materials as well as sympathetic and intelligent modern upgrades in more recent years and the forces that have driven this process of change.
Dominic will focus on a few high profile projects to illustrate some of the methods and changes he reveals. The talk will be richly illustrated with slides and a short film.
After a brief flirtation with the law, Dominic Evans-Freke has spent his working life to date living and breathing the world of Chinese export wallpapers as one of the owners of de Gournay, the renowned London and China based designers and manufacturers. Now in his mid 40’s and with more than 20 years experience of owning and operating their studios in mainland China, Dominic has faced and solved many of the same problems that producers of the same products would have done in antiquity. Dominic lives in Wiltshire with his wife and three children and divides his time between the UK and East Asia. He enjoys restoring old buildings through learning about old methods then putting them into practice today.
Chinese Export Wallcoverings: their Conservation as Western and Asian Works
While Chinese export paintings resemble those used in the grand interiors of eighteenth century China, they were produced for use in Western interiors that were assumed by the scale and cost of their production to be similarly grand. However, Chinese export paintings on silk and paper were mounted using different surface preparations due to the Western methods of construction, room configurations, materials, and trade practices. When compromises in condition and appearance necessitated intervention, the procedures and materials used in the past understandably reflected those used on western historic wallpapers and other works on paper. While the scale and aesthetic import of these different categories of wallcoverings may be similar, the characteristics of their media and supports are very different and reflected in the nature of the changes in their material stability. With the widespread introduction of Asian paper conservation techniques to the training of Western conservators beginning in the late twentieth century, their potential value came to be evaluated for incorporation into local and overall treatments options for large format Chinese export paintings. This development within the Western conservation tradition of best practices will be considered along with and place of connoisseurship in making conservation treatments of such large and specialized works more controlled and directed at their distinctive qualities.
T.K. McClintock is the Director of Studio TKM Conservation of Fine Art and Historic Works on Paper. He was trained at the Cooperstown Graduate Program, and has studied with Katsuhiko Masuda, Takemitsu Oba, Takashi Sugiura, Keiko Keyes, and the Conservation Department of the Palace Museum Beijing. He has directed the conservation of numerous rooms of Western and Chinese wallcoverings in North America, Europe, and Asia. He is a Fellow of the American Institute for Conservation, the International Institute for Conservation, the American Academy in Rome, and is an Accredited Conservator-Restorer of the Institute for Conservation.
The Conservation of Chinese Wallpapers
The conservator is perhaps in the most privileged position of any student of Chinese Wallpaper. Not only do we have the opportunity to enjoy their beauty and appreciate their significance as part of an historic interior, there is also a practical need to examine evidence and record archaeology, study the social and historical context and, as well as recognising causes of deterioration, fully understand the methods and materials used in both construction and hanging. Only by gathering such information can one devise an informed, ethical and robust methodology for treatment, reinstatement and future care.
This talk aims to provide an overview of the development of conservation through the prism of our own experience, spanning some 35 years. From the first tentative and carefully researched projects at Stagshaw Hall Northumberland and Temple Newsam House in Leeds, to more recent work at Harewood House, Yorkshire, Buckingham Palace and Coutts Bank, London, the Royal Pavilion, Brighton and Blanchford, Devon.
With an honours degree in the History of Art and Design, Allyson studied as a post graduate in the Conservation of Fine Art on Paper. After working at the North of England Area Museums Service she established the Lintz Green Conservation Centre, providing a wide range of conservation services for both the public and private sectors, and became lecturer, then Senior Lecturer in the Master’s Degree in Conservation, (Northumbria University ). She was invited to set up the Sotheby’s Conservation Studios and became Advisor on Wallpapers and Works of Art on Paper for the National Trust, opening a second studio at Petworth House, Sussex. Allyson studied the use of Chinese Wallpapers in the English Country House for five years as part of the V&A/RCA research programme and has lectured extensively on the subject. She now runs studios in Gloucestershire with an experienced team specialising in the conservation of the historic interior, conserving wallpaper and acting as consultants, designers and makers of both hand blocked and digital papers. Allyson has served on the Board of Trustees of ICON and as Chairman of the Historic Interiors Group. She lectures widely and has run many workshops and training programmes.
Chinese Wallpapers in the MAK Collection, Vienna
In the collection of the MAK, the Austrian Museum of Applied Arts/Contemporary Art, there are three different sets of Chinese wallpaper of the eighteenth century. Two of these are shown in the permanent gallery. Parts of these have been kept in the storage. In February 2013 a project was launched for the conservation of the wallpapers; we wanted to start with the pieces in the deposit. Under the same inventory number, however, was another roll, and to our surprise, it transpired that this included eight parts of another eighteenth-century Chinese wallpaper comprising a complete room decoration. This article presents a first report on the study and conservation of this ‘discovery’.
Beate Murr studied Conservation-Restoration at the Academy of fine Arts in Vienna (1986–91). After working at the Albertina Collection and the Museum of Natural History in Vienna, she became head of the MAK (Austrian Museum of applied Arts/Contemporary Art) Paper Conservation Department (since 1998). As the MAK houses one of the most important collections of Austrian Art Nouveau and the archives of the Wiener Werkstätte, she is specialized in this period. Another main interest of research and conservation concerns the important collection of Asian art on paper at the MAK including folding screens, Japanese woodcut prints and hanging scrolls. Since 2010 she is president of the Austrian conservators-restorers association.
Using and Marketing ‘Indian Pictures’ in Mid-Eighteenth-Century Dublin
‘Indian pictures’, ‘Indian prints’ and ‘India paper’ were terms used to describe Chinese export art on paper from the late seventeenth century. Focussing on the six years between 1747 and 1753, this paper will examine the different outlets through which ‘Indian pictures’ were sold in Dublin and contemporary descriptions of how they were used. Using the evidence provided by the advertisements of upholsterers, paper-stainers, japanners and others, a variety of uses for Chinese paintings will be explored, in particular their role in the burgeoning market for amateur art practice, or ‘ladies’ and gentlemen’s amusements’. The transition from ‘Indian pictures’ to fully developed Chinese wallpaper will be illustrated by reference to surviving schemes of Chinese wallpaper in houses near Dublin.
David Skinner is a wallpaper maker and researcher living in Dublin and County Leitrim, Ireland. He is the author of Wallpaper in Ireland, 1700-1900, published in 2014.
‘A Large Assortment of Curious India Paper’: the Eighteenth-Century English Market for Chinese Wallpaper
Chinese wallpaper’s final destination might be the walls of a English country or London house, but between that and the dockside lay a complicated journey overseen not by Chinese, but by English tradesmen. This paper explores the neglected role of these tradesmen including paper hangings manufacturers, upholders and suppliers of other luxury goods especially china men, who played a key role in creating and sustaining demand for ‘curious India paper’. It draws on auction notices, advertisements, bills and trade cards to illustrate how Chinese wallpaper was marketed, sold and installed, thereby establishing a model of authenticity for this new material. The ways in which tradesmen sought to manipulate India paper by at once associating it with aristocratic consumers and those linked to the East India trade, including Residents, Ambassadors and Captains is analysed to show how the trade at once denied and endorsed the material’s commercial associations. The retailing and pricing of goods is also considered in comparison to English made wallpapers, arguing that paper hangings manufacturers were able to make substantial sums from the imitation of Chinese papers, treading a tricky path between exclusivity and imitation. Finally, I draw on evidence of accounts from country and London houses to show how London firms including Bromwich’s and Crompton & Spinnage sought to control the installation of India papers, even those they did not supply themselves. I argue that these firms played a crucial role in the distribution of Chinese papers to houses across the country thereby fuelling the expansion of the eighteenth-century English wallpaper trade.
Clare is Lecturer and Staff Tutor in Art History at The Open University. She is an historian of art and design who works on the domestic interior and in particular on issues around gender, taste and material culture. Clare completed her PhD on eighteenth-century wallpaper in 2009 and is currently preparing her monograph, The Design, production and reception of Eighteenth-Century Wallpaper in Britain for Ashgate. Her work has appeared in periodicals including The Georgian Group Journal, The Wallpaper History Review and the Journal of the British Association of Paper Historians. Clare’s work in edited collections includes ‘Painted paper of Peking: Eighteenth-century Chinese papers in Britain c.1918-c.1945’, in The Reception of Chinese Art across Cultures (2014) and ‘Chinese papers and English imitations in eighteenth-century Britain’, in New Discoveries, New Research (2009). Work in press includes ‘Modern Swedish rococo: the Neo-Georgian interior in Britain, c.1920-c.1945’, in Re-Appraising Neo-Georgian Architecture (Historic England, forthcoming).
Dr Max Tillmann
Chinese Wallpapers and Sensual Exoticism at the Badenburg, Munich
The Badenburg, a little pavillon des bains, built for Elector Max Emanuel of Bavaria (1662-1726) between 1718-21 in the garden of Nymphenburg Palace, was already being admired in its day as a ‘chef d’oeuvre de l’art’. The magnificent baroque swimming pool was situated adjacent to Chinese-style interiors which were furnished ‘in the Indian manner, but of the richest and most beautiful kind’. In the context of the recent restoration and refurbishment of the princely apartment of the palace (2006-08) new insights into the diverse furnishing elements came to the fore: of particular value is the preserved collection of three original Chinese wallpapers for which a new chronology could be suggested. The paper will introduce the history of these three Chinese wallpapers comprising a very precious and rare European assemblage (dated 1751-63) of figural Chinese woodcuts (c. 1700), a panoramic wallpaper of the 1770s and a floral wallpaper, hung in 1806. These Chinese-style wall-decorations of the Badenburg can be described as a unifying decorative mode which combines various stylistic phases while the character of the palace changed from the exquisite maison de plaisance of Elector Max Emanuel to a bourgeois-style summer and family home of the 19th century.
Max Tillmann researches the production and circulation of eighteenth-century French luxury arts, including painting, Boulle furniture, mounted Asian porcelain, and silver. His PhD research concerned the collecting and patronage of Bavarian Elector Max Emanuel (1662-1726). From 2005 to 2008 he was a Curatorial Assistant in the Museum Department of state-owned Bavarian Palaces, Munich. He has helped organise and catalogue numerous exhibitions, including Baroque Furniture in the Boulle Technique (Munich 2011), André Charles Boulle (1642-1732): A New Style for Europe (Frankfurt 2009), The House of Wittelsbach and the Middle Kingdom (Munich 2009). After co-curating an exhibition for the Staatliche Kunsthalle in Karlsruhe about the role and tastes of the Margravine Caroline Louise of Baden (1723-1783) as principal founder of Karlsruhe’s painting collection in 2015 he is currently working on the correspondence with Caroline Louise’s dealers and informants which will be made available online in March 2016.
Dr Xiaoming Wang (English name: Anita Wang)
Chinese Woodblock New Year Prints and Paintings Used as Wallpaper in Europe in the 18th Century
During the 17th and 18th centuries, Gusu (Suzhou) beauty prints and paintings were extremely popular artworks for both the domestic and European markets. Such prints presented images of beautiful, elegant women, often with children or in opera scenes. In China, they were integrated into traditional festive rituals by being hung on walls to welcome the Spring Festival. In Europe, woodblock prints and paintings were treated as fashionable Chinese luxuries and used as wallpaper. In the early 18th century, with the general growing demand for Chinese art in Europe, there was an increase in orders for wallpaper incorporating Chinese woodblock prints and paintings from Suzhou. After 1757, Guangzhou was designated as the only port open to European trade and more official orders for Chinese wallpaper were received from the East Indian Companies of European countries. These various types of wallpaper were produced in and exported from the western merchants’ area in Canton, and were influenced by, but distinct from, the original Gusu New Year pictures.
This essay focuses on the differences between Chinese New Year pictures and the prints and paintings used in wallpaper produced for the 18th century European market. It discusses the motifs, the printing and painting techniques, and the artistic style of the Gusu beauty prints. It introduces relevant examples of New Year prints and paintings found on wallpaper in Europe for comparison. Examples are drawn from Germany, Austria, and the woodblock print collection of the Muban Educational Trust in London, as well as similar collections in Japan.
Dr. Xiaoming Wang is currently engaged in an Alexander Von Humboldt post-doctoral fellowship, focusing on the project ‘Early Asiatica and Chinoiseries at the Saxon Court’ of the State Art Museum Dresden, Germany, (2015-2017). Previously she was a lecturer on Chinese Folk Art Study, Intangible Cultural Heritage and Chinese Woodblock Prints in the Feng Jicai Institute of Literature and Art, Tianjin University, China. In 2014, with the support of the China Scholarship Council, she undertook a research project on Chinese woodblock print collections in Europe. In 2012 and 2013, she was the editor of the overseas issue of The Nianhua Journal, and participated in the Chinese New Year pictures data-base project from 2010 to 2014. From 2008 to 2011, she was a scholar in a team of researchers who conducted the Chinese Woodblock Prints Artists’ Oral History Research Project, and authored four books in the series of ‘The Oral History of Chinese Woodblock New Year Prints Artists’, published in 2011.
Dr Friederike Wappenschmidt
‘Talking Chinese’? Exotic Wall Coverings in German and Austrian Castles
During the sixteenth und seventeenth centuries paintings from China were seen in German and Austrian collections, art cabinets and libraries. Since European art theorists did not want to classify these Chinese paintings as serious artistic expression, customers in France, the Netherlands and Great Britain discovered that it served quite well as an extraordinary material for wall coverings and German rulers imitated the fashion. Henceforth interiors papered with Chinese paintings were important exotic elements of princely representation (e.g. in Munich and Vienna).
Agents acquired Chinese painting material especially in European centres of the Asia trade. It was often bought on stock for a later use according to European modes and interest. Out of the variety of visual material German upholsterers were able to create the illusion of exotic gardens or fairy-tale stories illustrating the widespread notion of China as a ‘pays de fée’. Other craftsmen assembled the images of Chinese representatives to galleries or pageants of the noble Chinese society (Dresden, Falkenlust, Sünching, Nymphenburg), about whom Jesuits had reported. European philosophers and writers took up their information and German courts discussed Chinese civilisation, theatre plays and operas. Nevertheless German princes preferred technically mature figural and floral scenic wallpaper from China, which told about everyday life and garden-culture in the middle empire in a more “perfect” way. In 1800 the view on Chinese wallpaper sceneries had already changed. Particularly in Berlin and Munich the desire for verifiable ethnographic information insufficiently developed, which could not any longer be satisfied by Chinese wallpaper paintings.
Friederike Wappenschmidt received her Ph.D. from the University of Bonn, where she studied History of Art, Archeology and East Asian Art History. She was assistant curator at the Museum of East Asian Art and the Museum of Applied Arts in Berlin and with the benefit of a grant by the German Academic Research Council (DFG) conducted the research project Chinesische Tapeten für Europa – Vom Rollbild zur Tapete that was published as a book-length study by Deutscher Verlag für Kunstwissenschaft in 1989. As an independent scholar she currently contributes to national and international research and exhibition projects and has published articles on aspects of chinoiserie as well as two book-length studies in the field of European art and culture studies.
The Conservation and Restoration of Chinese Wallpapers: An Overview
Chinese wallpaper rolls are made from large sheets of thin white Xuan paper joined together then laminated with several linings of paper and a starch-based adhesive. A carbon ink outline of the design was drawn or printed from blocks or transfers onto the prepared sheet and then filled in with both mineral and organic colours bound with glue. Details and glazes were added last. The high quality of the materials used and their dexterous execution made them an expensive, prized and valued export art commodity.
Despite their fragile nature, many examples of 18th century Chinese wallpaper survive to this day in historic houses, palaces, museums and private collections, displayed on a variety of support systems.
Wallpaper displayed for long periods in some historic houses has resulted in deterioration requiring in-situ conservation of whole rooms of wallpaper. Suitable conservation solutions have also been needed for detached sections or samples of Chinese wallpaper that are in a deteriorated state in public and private collections.
Treating large paper objects of this scale requires good planning, adequate space and time. Experience and expertise in handling large wet sheets of degraded paper is essential and a knowledge of Japanese and Chinese mounting techniques has contributed to efficient and effective working methods. In this paper some conservation methods will be discussed as well as traditional and modified wall preparations and support systems.
Pauline Webber worked at the V&A for over twenty five years She was a Supervisor for the RCA / V&A Conservation Program and an External Examiner for the MA and the Post Graduate Diploma in Paper Conservation at Camberwell College of Art (University of the Arts London) She headed of Paper Conservation Section at the V&A Museum for fourteen years until leaving the V&A in 2005. She worked briefly for the Royal Academy of Arts on the Chinese exhibition ‘The Three Emperors’ before moving to Massachusetts, USA, in 2006. While living in the USA she works as an independent conservator and has undertaken consultancy work for UNESCO (Beijing Office), the Peabody Essex Museum, the Museum of Fine Arts and private clients and conservation studios. She is an accredited member of ICON and member of IIC. She has written frequently for The Paper Conservator and other conservation journals and contributed to various publications on conservation-related topics.
Chinese Paper as Commodity
When it comes to paper-making no one would dispute that it started in China. However, if we compare Chinese paper with two other Chinese inventions, silk and porcelain, we cannot fail to notice that silk and porcelain were exported to many parts of the world whereas paper had not been a trade item on the international market, except as a decorative hanging for palaces and mansions in Europe and Britain in the 18th and 19th centuries. Within China paper functioned primarily as a medium to write on or print on. But it also had “a coarser use, such as shielding against the wind or protective wrapping of things”. This observation by the writer Song Yingxing in 1637 reminds us that Chinese paper can also be strong and not invariably a material for literary activities.
This presentation looks at the very few examples of Chinese papers that reached the Middle East and Britain before the 19th century and, more importantly, how they were put to use by their owners. The speaker also attempts to find out what attracted European and British consumers to buy their wall hangings from China.
Ming Wilson is Senior Curator, Asian Department, Victoria and Albert Museum. She has organized exhibitions and written books on a wide range of topics in Chinese art, including export paintings (2003), jades (2004), books (2006), imperial robes (2010) and the history of Chinese art in Britain (2008 and 2014). Her recent research is on Sino-British diplomatic gifts.
The Chinese Wallpapers at Coutts & Co., London: Mobilising Images of Chinese Life and Industry
Chinese wallpapers were introduced to Europe in the late 17th century and went on to play a central role in Chinoiserie; an aesthetic which gave popular definition and material expression to European interactions with Asia in the early modern period. While evidence suggests that Chinese wallpapers of this type were not historically used in China, it is clear that they utilised imagery and decorative motifs drawn from a variety of Chinese sources in combination with western and Chinese artistic conventions, materials and formats. As such, Chinese wallpapers offer a visual and material record of the rich cultural exchanges that took place between China and Europe during the late 17th century and 18th century and exemplify the novel products that were generated by them.
Taking the Chinese wallpapers in the board room at Coutts bank in London as a specific case study, this paper will explore the hybrid and multivalent nature of Chinese wallpapers. Reputedly gifted to Thomas Coutts (1735-1822) by George, Earl of Macartney (1737-1806) following his embassy to China (1792-1794) the wallpapers at Coutts bank offer a detailed panorama, depicting Chinese industries and key export commodities of the 18th century; namely rice, silk, tea and porcelain. This paper will discuss the origins of specific aspects of the imagery used and the alternative cultural readings they were subject to as they were mobilised as decorative subjects on objects for global trade. This paper will go on to discuss the continued relevance of the wallpapers at Coutts today as an important record of the bank’s history and commercial identity, demonstrating the enduring legacy of the wallpaper and the potency of the specific images represented on it.
Anna is currently working towards a PhD on the History of Design programme based at the Victoria and Albert Museum and the Royal College of Art in London, supported by an AHRC doctoral award. Her thesis ‘Beyond Chinoiserie: Chinese wallpaper as Global Visual and Material Culture’ focuses on Chinese wallpapers made for export markets and traces their development, global influence and enduring appeal through comparative cases studies in Britain, America and China, spanning the 18th century to the present day.
Prior to embarking on her PhD Anna worked as Assistant Curator for the Chinese collections at the Victoria and Albert Museum (2007-2012), where she contributed to a wide variety of projects, including the complete refurbishment and re-display of the ceramics galleries, refurbishment of the China gallery and re-display of the Korea gallery. Anna has curated permanent displays for the V&A’s China gallery and ceramics galleries as well as several temporary exhibitions and displays including, Chiang Yee: The Silent Traveller (2012) and Ai Weiwei: Dropping the Urn (2011–2012).