Walls in Bloom, a paradise of auspicious symbols, in wallpaper
Since the earliest days of civilization, walls told stories, for centuries.
While evergreen wreaths circle the snowbound bandstand on the town common and frosted maple branches bend and bow down under sparkly ice, across Main Street, indoors, abundant peach and plum blossoms, climbing roses and more flowering trees rise into heavenly blue skies in a protected paradise, Walls in Bloom, antique garden wallpaper for new audiences in The Hamlen Collection, on exhibit through December at Sunflowers Cafe, the popular landmark in downtown Jaffrey.
The garden views are exemplars of the finest antique wallpaper in the world, on exhibit for the first time since being by gifted artists in the early 19th century probably in Canton, China, now called Guangzhou. The new editions are fine reproductions of an historical chinoisierie panorama. The facsimiles retain authentic unique patina: imperfections are intentional and are representative of the original. The sublime digital medium transcends the message, the expressive antique art of the hand eludes time and techniques to appear old, made new, for new locations.
Hamlen chinoiserie compares stunningly to original walls hand painted on silk, commissioned by the Prince of Wales in 1784 (above left), and preserved in the Prince Regent Suite at Brockett Hall, a UK National Trust property north of London. Hamlen panels at right.
A closer look reveals the gardens host a flamboyant menagerie, a pageant of high comedy staged on the paths between scholars rocks and shallow pools, performed by debonaire denizen in concurrent scenes amidst hundreds of blooms, with an aviary chorus of sophisticated tropical birds. On the ground, two mirthful ivory ducks joke and laugh, suave pheasants stroll and chat, droll mandarin ducks debate, egrets stretch and step around lotuses, and white bamboo leaves frame vignettes above.
Visitors may join the conversations for real time walkabouts in the highly decorative idealized world of auspicious symbols for harmony and happiness, good fortune and wealth, longevity, loyalty, peace, prosperity, humor, serenity and wisdom.
From the late 18th century through the mid 19th century, Chinese export ateliers painted chinoiserie wallpaper gardens and landscapes for export to England and North America, that are still treasured today as the epitome of glamour in royal palaces and grand estates by descendants, connoisseurs, museums and designers.
Three years ago Dev Hamlen of Wayland, Massachusetts, explored innovative potential to share his heirloom garden wallpaper with new audiences and preserve the artists’ legacy in a new way to retain unique patina, to look very old yet be a model of sustainability. Hamlen's great grandfather Nathaniel Hamlin of Boston had sailed from Long Wharf, beginning at age 21, on voyages on the clipper ship Union to trading ports in India and the Far East where he bought the Chinese wallpaper for his family. Letters to Nat from his father, mother, and sister survive as poignant narratives, with selections, portraits and maps of ocean journeys in a notebook at the exhibit. They moved from Boston to Wayland in 1872 to build Mainstone Farm, long a dairy farm and today with a herd of grass fed belted Galloway beef cattle, a pen for pigs plus five acres growing vegetables for a farm stand beloved in the region. Nat’s wallpaper masterworks were fortunately safe from sunlight for over a hundred years, partly by being forgotten in a barn attic about 70 years, rediscovered and installed the dining room for enjoyment of generations and later removed by Dev for conservation and preservation in digital scans.
When Alderman began electronic imaging as a Fellow at the National Academy Museum Mural Fellowship in New York in 2004, her design center showroom became the Internet.
Alderman has delivered bespoke digital chic antique wallpaper in one of a kind new editions to more than twenty cities in six countries, with designer inquiries from five continents.
She produces bespoke antique scenic wallpaper in new editions entirely online in collaboration with an informal guild of digital imaging printers met during innovative projects: digital fine art photographers, color separation artists, fine art reproduction specialists, architects, interior designers, decorators, installers and digital wallpaper printers at Wallquest, one of the foremost manufacturers in the US and the world with exports to sixty countries.
Alderman introduced antique French digital Dufour wallpaper online in 2008 in archival fine art reproductions printed with Dan Saccardo of Superior Giclee. She introduced another French masterwork in 2012, printed by Wallquest on sustainable eco chic nonwoven wallcovering, with custom installations in London, Palm Beach, Lake Forest, Manhattan, Istanbul, Washington, Baltimore, Georgetown, Olympia, Houston, Las Vegas, Colorado Springs, Puerto Rico, Dublin, Paris, and shows in Bangkok and New York.
Alderman's decade of digital chic develops The Hamlen Collection with Wallquest in new locations in Darien, Palm Beach, Charleston (SC), Boston, Jaffrey and more. Her unofficial digital network is newly named the Compton Guild.
Special thanks go to Dev Hamlen for the imagination to reconsider lost art as antiques anew.