Date of Award

2018

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

Fine and Decorative Art and Design

First Advisor

Ann-Marie Richard

Second Advisor

Elizabeth Pergam

Abstract

French wood-block printed wallpaper is a very unique mural art form, yet often neglected. With this historical lack of attention, few academics have devoted themselves to the study of the topic, especially in the United States; and yet, wallpaper can reveal so much about past styles, settings, and collectors. Due to the historical changes in fashion, natural aging, weather, war, and neglect, a considerably limited number of collections continue to hang in situ in the American South in relation to the abundant examples found in the Northeast that have been better documented. Yet, the South’s historic affinity for all that was French is indicative of the highly important collections that exist (or once existed) in the area. The French colonization of Louisiana, Mississippi, and Florida during sixteenth through early eighteenth centuries left a lasting impression on the southern region. Even after independence was granted, Southerners continued to hold on to their French roots, especially in the selection of fine and decorative arts for their households.

With this strong affinity for everything French, some of the finest examples of French wallpaper in America have been discovered in the Southern region. Focusing specifically on wallpaper collections of this region, this thesis aims to identify and analyze several notable examples of French eighteenth and nineteenth century wood-block printed décors. From this research, the author hopes to present new insight on the socio-economic nature of those who acquired these papers and their collections. In light of time and travel constraints, this work is by no means an all-encompassing directory of the collections within the South; it is a focused study on the specific collections in which the author believes best articulate the essence of French wood-block printed wallpaper decors in this region.

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