‘Archive Trails’ from Little Greene: an archive-inspired anthology of English and French trailing wallpaper motifs.
Over the last decade, Little Greene has established a tradition for sourcing authentic archive wallpaper designs and cleverly adapting their patterns and colours to suit 21st Century living. As its name suggests, the tenth collection, ‘Archive Trails’, is a joyful celebration of floral trail wallpapers, which have been drawn from a number of highly respected resources including English Heritage, Manchester’s Whitworth Art Gallery and historical documents from France. Marrying designs from the 18th, 19th and 20th Centuries, this harmonious portfolio of seven wallpapers, in multiple colourways, encapsulates the enduring popularity of trailing floral and bird motifs in surface design.
Trailing florals have been the subject of decorative pattern since long before the mechanisation of wallpaper production and the ensuing fashion for repeating pattern. Traditionally, the scenes depicted in early 18th Century interiors were painted by hand; in effect, bespoke murals. This artisan form of decoration was the precursor to the tighter, more structured designs we have come to understand and appreciate as conventional wallpaper over the last two Centuries.
In the early 19th Century, regimented trellis and smaller, geometric patterns celebrated the new uniformity that could be achieved by machine printing. However, as techniques became more sophisticated, some classic rococo and baroque elements - in particular ornate flowers and exotic bird motifs - were, by the mid 19th Century, enjoying a resurgent popularity. In the careful redrawing of these seven historical designs, ‘Archive Trails’ champions both the discovery and subsequent rediscovery of flamboyant floral wallpaper patterns.
As is customary with Little Greene’s wallpapers, each design has prescribed its own print techniques, including tactile surface print and shimmering mica grounds, to achieve a timeless surface finish of the highest quality. Alongside the ‘Colours Of England’, a renowned palette of coordinating paint shades, this collection will truly lift the walls of traditional and contemporary homes alike!
David Mottershead, MD of Little Greene enthuses: ‘At Little Greene we have established a tradition for unearthing document designs and breathing new life into them. Oversized florals coupled with exotic birds are traditional and yet very much on-trend right now. Working closely with a team of experts, we have been able to recreate archive fragments in a contemporary yet enduring way and have incorporated colours and scales to suit modern day interiors.’
Darwin (c1760) represents one of the Whitworth Art Gallery’s most important recent acquisitions and, with a twist in its story, this exemplary English piece was actually found intact in a house in Aix-en-Provence, France. The exotic scene accurately imitates a typical 18th Century hand-painted Chinese paper, but the tax stamp, still visible on the back of the original rag paper, categorically identifies it as English in origin. The colours interpreted in the ‘Serein’ colourway are very true to the original - a surprisingly (and wonderfully) well-preserved archive document.
Gustav (c1875) was found in poor condition, making it somewhat difficult to date accurately, but English Heritage archivists estimate it as mid-late 18th Century. Found in Eagle House, a Jacobean manor in Wimbledon, it bears the hallmarks of a classic block print, but in fact some of the flowers on the original were painted by hand and applied over the pre-printed trail as part of a decorative border. The scale of the pattern is reminiscent of a large damask design, but the muted colourways adapted for ‘Archive Trails’ mean this paper can be used all-over, without overpowering a room.
China Rose (c1885) is a classic flamboyant floral, taken from a late 19th Century French hand-painted ‘Peking Stripe’ fabric with a distinct Chinese influence. The distressed opaque colours in the leaves and petals portray the hand of the original artist, in contrast with a judicious modern-day use of mica and metallic inks as witnessed in some colourways.
Vine (c1932), taken from the archive at the Whitworth Art Gallery in Manchester, offers an unmistakeable nod to William Morris, the father of the late 19th Century Arts & Crafts movement. An authentic surface print technique has been employed to reproduce this contemporary version, with the blue colourway being very close to the original in colour – despite the poor condition of the background colour on the surviving fragment.
Sakura (c1936) is a pretty trail of matt leaves and delicate blossom originating in France. The surface detail has been retained, contributing to its charming layered depth, whilst the colouration has retained an elegant, seductive informality. A mica ground has been used on some colourways to exaggerate the interplay of light and contrast on the surface of the paper.
Paradise (c1940) celebrates a truly rich mix of styles. The English Heritage-owned document from which this paper is drawn is actually a 20th Century piece, but the subject – exotic flora and the familiar oriental ho-ho birds - is classic ancient Chinoiserie, whilst the colouration in the original is very much in the style of a 19th Century French paper. This design retains the original’s oversized repeat and has been reproduced in six stunning colourways.
Stitch (c1940) is inspired by embroidered chintz cottons. The use of stippling (dot-work) was popular in embroidery and printing, particularly at a time when block printing was seen as an indication of status. In the late 19th and well into the 20th Century, ornate patterns in the home were a conspicuous symbol of wealth and associated with prosperity. The use of two print colours makes this paper especially easy to coordinate with paint colours and other elements in the room.
Archive Trails will be available from January 21st 2016.