Decorated Paper: A Selection of Publications in Watson Library

January 5th - April 18th, 2023
Free with Museum admission

Artists’ Works

This section celebrates artwork by contemporary decorated paper artists. These take the form of portfolios, such as the marbled Ottoman motif papers by Nedim Sönmez, as well as anecdotal instructional books produced by artists about their work, such as the colorful publications of Carol Blinn, Karli Frigge, and Robin Heyeck. It also includes delightful books of marbled miniatures by well-known artists Ann Muir and Christopher Weinmann. These contain original tiny paper specimens in marbled paper bindings.

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Classic Works in the Field

A revival of marbling and paper arts began in the 1960s. Many contemporary paper artists consulted the classic manuals to learn historical techniques and patterns, and eventually developed and published their own signature styles. One such publication is Christopher Weimann’s Marbled Papers (1978), which features new marbling designs informed by the study of past marbling techniques. This part of the exhibition also includes important paper specimen books consulted frequently by artists and scholars, including A New Specimen Book of Curwen Pattern Papers (1987), which illustrates patterned paper designs from one of the leaders of early twentieth century British design; and Sidney Berger’s Chiyogami Papers (2011), which contains a vibrant selection of Japanese papers from the author’s collection.

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Trade Catalogs

Trade catalogs are commercial manufacturers’ sales catalogs, which contain important primary source documentation vital to the study of the decorative arts. In order to make their products attractive to potential buyers, many manufacturers created highly elaborate books and bindings containing original paper samples. Watson Library has hundreds of international trade catalogs from papermills, distributors, and individual artists, a few of which are featured in this section of the exhibition.

The papers offered by the manufacturers in the trade catalogs on display range from handmade plant-based paper, as in the eighteenth-century classic Oeuvres du Marquis de Villette (1786), to brilliant screen-printed papers, as in the German Art Deco sample book, Diamantbrokat, Marke Exzellenz (1930s).

A highlight on display is a rare catalog of marbled paper titled Musterbuch von Marmor Schnitten für Geschäfts-Bücher (ca.1870). It contains 192 original marbled paper samples with various patterns for the use of marbling the edges of account books, a common practice in the second half of the nineteenth century. Another rare trade catalog featured here is Ōtaka Danshi Mihonchō (1875), a wallpaper sample book of embossed papers resembling leather. These papers emulate seventeenth-century Dutch gilt leather wall hangings (see The Met’s Gilt-leather wall hanging in Gallery 607).

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Awagami factory : original classic paper collection, Hiromi Paper International Inc.
Hiromi Paper International Inc.
ca. 1990
Œuvres du marquis de Villette, Charles-Michel Villette, marquis de Villette
Charles-Michel Villette, marquis de Villette (French, 1736–1793)
Pierre Alexandre Léorier Delisle (French, 1744–1826)
Sample book of the fancy paper factory Aschaffenburg, Karli Frigge
Karli Frigge (Dutch, born Rotterdam, 1943)
Neuheiten, A. Nees & Co. Buntpapierfabrik
A. Nees & Co. Buntpapierfabrik (German)
Diamantbrokat, Marke Exzellenz
between 1930 and 1939
Musterbuch von Marmor Schnitten für Geschäfts-Bücher
Collection of handmade paper samples and sample books by the Victoria Paper Company, Victoria Paper Company
Victoria Paper Company
between 1992 and 1995

Artists’ Books

The artists’ book collection in Watson Library includes over one hundred international publications that are either printed on or in some way incorporate handmade paper, as well as many that feature decorated papers. Countries represented include the United States, Japan, Southeast Asia, Dutch Canada, Italy, and Mexico. This section highlights the creative uses of decorated paper in artists’ books by Claudia Cohen and Sheryl Oppenheim. In her compilation, Some Decorated Paper (2018), Cohen presents varied, patterned samples from her collection of nineteenth and twentieth century decorated paper with a striking juxtaposition of patterns. In Black Light, Oppenheim explores marbling patterns with black-light-sensitive paints in fluorescent colors. Unfolded and displayed on a wall, the pages of this accordion book form a frieze stretching thirteen feet from end to end.

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Black light, Sheryl Oppenheim
Sheryl Oppenheim
Some decorated paper, Claudia Cohen
Claudia Cohen (American, born Springfield, Massachusetts, 1953)

Plan Your Visit

January 5th - April 18th, 2023
Free with Museum admission