Emile de Bruijn 艾米爾.德. 布裡, Registrar (Collections & Grants), National Trust
The National Trust looks after over 200 historic houses in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Some of these houses contain Chinese wallpaper which was imported and hung in the 18th and 19th centuries. These wallpapers have received conservation treatment under National Trust stewardship, and various observations and discoveries were made as part of that work. Now a comprehensive catalogue is being prepared to make these findings accessible and to put this group of wallpapers in the wider context of the consumption of Chinese wallpapers in Europe and North America.
In our work on the catalogue we have identified 44 instances in 24 different houses of Chinese wallpapers, fragments of Chinese wallpapers and records of lost Chinese wallpapers. These wallpapers include floral scenes, figural scenes, combined floral/figural scenes, and various kinds of Chinese paintings and prints used as wall decoration.
In some cases we have found strong similarities between wallpapers in different houses, partly the result of the printing of certain elements of the imagery, and partly the result of the painters following common models. Certain wallpapers seem to have originated from the same Chinese workshop, based on the visual evidence, but as yet there is almost no documentary evidence available about the operation of these workshops.
We have also begun to investigate how Chinese wallpapers developed out of the Chinese academic/professional painting tradition, and what the imagery represents and means in the Chinese context. We have noted a gradual shift in imagery and style between the mid-18th century and the mid-19th century, probably in response to changing western demand, but this needs further research.
It has been useful to look at Chinese wallpapers in the context of the historic houses in which they were hung. Sometimes records are available about who purchased the wallpaper, where it was purchased and when and how it was hung by specialist paper hangers and decorators. It has also been revealing to establish the types of rooms Chinese wallpapers was hung in, how those rooms were used and what meaning Chinese wallpaper had for the owners of the houses and their guests.
The catalogue project has also been the catalyst for the formation of an international Chinese wallpaper discussion forum, consisting of conservators, curators, historic interiors consultants, academics and even modern-day Chinese wallpaper producers. We have found that the study of the subject very much benefits from a multi-disciplinary approach, including an awareness of material, social and economic aspects, and including both Chinese and western art-historical perspectives.
Emile de Bruijn 艾米爾.德. 布裡
Emile de Bruijn studied Japanese at Leiden University, the Netherlands, and subsequently museoloy at Essex Univesity, United Kingdom. He then worked in the Japanese and Chinese departments of the auctioneers Sotheby’s in London. In 2003 Emile began to work for the National Trust, where he now works in the collections management department. Emile has published articles on chinoiserie garden pavilions and Javanese lacquer in the collections of the National Trust, and more generally on the history of orientalism in the decorative arts.
Andrew Bush graduated from the University College of North Wales with a BSc in Wood Science in 1978, and received a certificate in Paper Conservation from Camberwell School of Art and Crafts, London, in 1980. From 1980 to 1990 he worked in the Paper Conservation Section of the National Maritime Museum, London. Since 1990 he has worked for the National Trust, first as a regional conservator, and from 1990 as their adviser on paper conservation. He spends most of his time surveying, and implementing the needs of prints, drawings, watercolours and wallpapers to be found in the Trust’s two hundred or so historic houses in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. He has a special interest in historic wallpapers.
Together with Dr Helen Clifford they are currently completing a catalogue of the extant and recorded Chinese wallpapers in National Trust houses, to be published in February 2013.