The history of wallpapers is not merely an account of embellished patterns and designs. It is a compelling record of evolution of technological brilliance, shifts in consumption patterns and tastes and their economic implications and much more detailed and fascinating than you might imagine.
These decorative pieces are no more an element of the past. Recently, wallpapers have been making grand debuts in chic lobbies, high-end restaurants, art galleries, fashion magazines and even modern homes.
While purchasing wallpapers, we do not think of its history, origin and progression. You would be amazed to know that it has existed for thousands of years and has a very robust and interesting history of its own.
Just like fashion, wallpapers follow a periodic trend where certain patterns and designs come in and out of style cyclically. In the mid 20th century, wallpapers were out of style and were considered old-fashioned and outdated. In recent years, wallpapers and wallcoverings are making a huge comeback. Abstract patterns, contemporary designs, bohemian styles, watercolor motifs are some of the hottest and in-demand elements in the home décor market.
WALLPAPERS IN THE EARLY AGES
The first known instances of wall decoration was found in Egyptian and Roman wall paintings and Egyptian papyrus, which is the earliest known paper was invented in 4000 BC.
The earliest known wallpapers to exist date back as early as 200 B.C China. The Chinese craftsmen first used rice paper, on which they painted various trees, birds, flowers, and landscapes and glued them to the walls. When the Chinese were captured by the Middle East, the prisoners spread this knowledge of paper making to their conquerors. This further led the Arabs to substitute rice paper for a higher quality linen paper. And by the 10th century, they had even replaced linen with bamboo and wood creating a finer type of paper.
It was only in the 12th century that the Europeans learnt the art of making paper. They largely made religious prints of Christ, Virgin Mary, Angels etc. The first known of such was from 1418, which was the portrayal of the Virgin Mary which is now located at the Royal Library at Brussels.
The earliest wallpapers that were utilized by the Europeans were in the 13th century and were typically prints of religious icons. Before the advent of the advent of the printing press, only the extremely wealthy classes could afford to create hand-painted wallpaper pieces by commissioning artists.
WALLPAPERS IN THE MIDDLE AGES
Later, due to the overwhelming demand for these elegant papers, they were produced in larger numbers and brought to Western countries in the 16th century by the Dutch and Portuguese traders.
During this period, wallpapers were favored among the poorer classes in Western Europe, to enhance homes and stores. Before block printing, wallpapers were typically painted by hand with religious symbols and were exhibited in homes of the poorer classes. In the latter part of the century, when block printing was popularized with patterns that were similar to the tapestries of the rich, the middle class also started using wallcoverings.
In the mid 17th century, the wallpaper roll came into existence where single sheets were joined together. This led to the introduction of block printing as well as repeating patterns.
Jean Michel Papillon is considered to be the inventor of wallpapers. He was a French engraver who started to make block designs in matching, repeated patterns in 1675.
During this time flock papers were introduced in France as an attempt to provide an inexpensive wallpaper that compared fairly with the lavish velvet and brocade tapestries.
In the 18th and 19th century, the popularity of wallpapers began to grow and prosper. Different methods of creating wallpapers were present in this period which included roller printing from England, block printing from France, embossed leather work from Japan. Various popular events from that period influenced the patterns and sceneries.
In the 18th century, oriental papers were in demand and western artists began to imitate Chinese artworks and illustrations, which came to be known as Chinoiserie designs.
There was a movement in the 19th century Victorian era to have your walls be divided into three sections called the dado and to have these be complementary to one another.
In the 1840s, machines that were efficient enough to manufacture unlimited rolls of paper completely revolutionized the wallpaper industry. During this time, all classes were utilizing wallpapers with higher and lower end designs and kinds of paper to satisfy all of the people at a reasonable price.
20th CENTURY AND BEYOND
The early 20th century was the Golden Age for wallpapers. Hundreds of millions wallpapers were bought by people of many walks of life. Artists were flamboyant and innovative in their style and designs in the Victorian era and created new and improved artworks to meet the increasing demand.
For a brief period during the mid 20th century, when Modernism came into being, plain surfaces and bare walls became the preferred trend. Plastic resins were also introduced after World War II to make wallpapers more durable and last longer. But these tools proved to be inadequate in making wallpapers popular again.
In the 1960s and 1970s, the sales turnover for wallpaper manufacturers were strong and high and designs were modern and avant-garde. But after the oil crisis of 1973, industry significantly reduced in size and were mostly taken over by multinational companies.
In recent years, wallpapers have rolled back into being fashionable again. Today’s wallpapers are a fresh development to painted walls. Not only can wallcoverings add multifaceted colors to one’s home, but also add a variety of intricate textures and patterns to elevate one’s home by making insipid walls look lively and refined. The designs and patterns that are in style today are a splendid amalgamation of the elements of the past and present.
The latest wallpaper trends include modern panoramic murals, contemporary geometric patterns, 3D textures, tropical themes, watercolor paintings, quirky and fun motifs, minimalistic designs etc as well as classic designs like Damasks, Chinoiserie, Paisley, vintage style florals etc. Sustainability has become the forefront of our minds with the recent increased awareness about our limited natural resources, hence materials such as grass cloth, wicker, straw and silk are consciously being used as well as focusing to a greater extent on PVC free solutions.
The wallpaper industry is likely to progressively grow further in the next decade as more and more artists, designers and manufacturers are pushing the envelope to create the most unique designs and wall concepts combining more integrative components for the growing demand while also keeping in mind sustainability and viability.
The accessibility of online wallpapers have made it feasible thousands of homeowners to decorate and enhance their homes in a quick, simple and economic manner. Recent advancements in digital printing, as well as digital and graphic illustration and design, have brought a new generation of artists, producing large scale murals and unique and unexpected designs and ensuring that the rich history of wallpapers lives on.
If you have not tried the versatility of wallcoverings yet, maybe it is time to delve into the rich history of wallpapers to give your home a more sophisticated, colorful and elegant outlook for the future. From elegant classic designs to modern contemporary ones, we have them all at Life N Colors. Be sure to explore our website and allow us to elevate your home.