In the 18th century, European and American interiors were transformed by the rise of a new kind of wall treatment. Wallpaper – mass-produced, affordable, and highly practical – reached a broader audience than fine prints and paintings. This wide distribution prompted wallpaper artists to heed the contemporary interests of the expanding consumer class. As a result, wallpaper often recorded social changes as they were expressed in the shifting relationship between high art and popular culture throughout the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries.
This exhibition is the result of a collaboration between the Department of Decorative Arts at The RISD Museum and participants in a graduate seminar directed by Professor Catherine Wilkinson Zerner, Department of the History of Art and Architecture, Brown University. The seminar is part of a RISD Museum program supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation; the exhibition is supported in part by the Felicia Fund and the Sachem Foundation.