Horta Motifs. Fabric and wallpaper in Brussels houses

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18/04/2018 - 27/01/2019

Horta Motifs. Fabric and wallpaper in Brussels houses

At the end of the 19th century, Art Nouveau architects wanted to develop a homogeneous aesthetic. Whereas the building envelope was important, attention to detail in interior decoration became a key concern for the architect’s work.
Victor Horta advocated the abolition of hierarchy in the arts, which led to a profound renewal in decorative arts and the artisanal or industrial production of everyday objects.

In the 1890s, coordinated wallpaper and fabrics designed by British designers of the Arts & Crafts movement played a leading role in the decoration of Art Nouveau interiors in Western Europe. Men such as William Morris, Walter Crane or Charles Francis Annesley Voysey designed wallpaper with stylized motifs drawn from nature that were particular appreciated by the main representatives of Art Nouveau in Belgium. Victor Horta and Henry Van de Velde used these British models for the interiors they designed. The success of English products was further bolstered with the presentation of creations by manufactories such as Essex & Co. at the Paris World Expo in 1900.
Wallpaper industrialists brought Art Nouveau style articles on the market while continuing to produce popular and affordable wallpaper that could be used for the interiors of all social classes. The wallpaper of Morris or Voysey who advocated a return to traditional production methods (block-printing) were very expensive.

The material components attesting to the presence of wallpaper in Brussels interiors by Victor Horta are rare and not widely known. At times, photo close ups yield information and make it possible to identify the wallpaper. Owing to its ephemeral nature, wallpaper is often replaced as fashions come and go, when it does not disappear completely under layers of paint. Restorers and curators often have only thin fragments to account for the decoration of an interior at a given period.

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