With at least half a dozen different wall and ceiling papers in an unusually elaborate arrangement, a rather masculine Arts & Crafts den has several panels from Schmitz–Horning’s famed San-kro-mura ‘Automobile’ frieze. (The full treatment, 30″ high, has six 60″ panels and runs 30 linear feet without repeat.)
Its humorous vignettes showing the perils of “a mid-winter tour of Southern California”—road racing, road rage, and road-trip repairs—are an ambivalent commentary on life with the era’s new-fangled phenomenon in personal transport.
Pictorial friezes, many of them imported from Europe, were popular from about 1905 until the Great Depression. Intaglio-printed in durable oil-based inks, these papers allowed for more colors and a finer gradation of tone than did traditional wallpapers. Subjects tended toward historical scenes, lush landscapes, and whimsical or quirky themes known as novelty papers. Will we celebrate new technologies with digital patterns today? Or has progress rudely dispensed with novelty decorative treatments, leaving them, like that old horse and buggy, in the ditch?
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