Wallpaper of its Time

Mangeløv by Preben Dahlstrøm manufactured in the 1940s.

An exhibition of Danish Artists’ Wallpapers 1930-1965 continues at the Nationalmuseet - the National Museum in Copenhagen - until the 14th of September. Included are original wallpapers, sample books and sketches and examples of some furniture from the period.

Many prominent Danish architects, designers, painters and illustrators worked with the wallpaper factories in this period with the aim of improving the standard of interior design in Danish homes and examples in the exhibition from these collaborations include wallpapers by Bent Karlby, Arne Jacobsen and Nanna Ditzel.

Although this exhibition represents a relatively short period, and one that was disrupted by the Second War, the development of patterns and colour ranges is striking from the earlier small geometric patterns through floral motifs, including the delicate botanical studies from Jacobsen, to very bold strong abstract patterns in the 60s. 


1 Majs (corn) by Bent Karlby from 1943
2 The red roofs of Montmartre from 1947 by Willy Mortensen
3 The Landmark of 1950 - designs by Bomand Utzon-Frank and Viggo Clausen and Liane by Vibeke Krause
4 Semi Abstract Patterns. The yellow rectangles set horizontally and diagonally divided is Klinker by Nanna and Jørgen Ditzel from about 1955, Pendul by Walter Hviid, a design by Jens Dall and the maroon design is Kontantinopel by Walter Hviid from 1955
5 In the Contemporary case Perpetum Mobile from 1955 was designed by Bent Karlby and the design in several colourways, Z-Stribe, by Ib Buch, was produced in 1956.

Atrium by Ebbe and Karen Clemmensen, 1959

Danske Kunstnertapeter 1930-1965, Vibeke Andersson Møller, Rhodos Internationalt Forlag for Vibenskab og Kunst (2013)

A major book accompanying the exhibition by Vibeke Andersson Møller includes photographs of many of the wallpapers in original interiors. One in particular, is a dining room with wallpaper in a bamboo design by Bent Karlby, and shows starkly how the present revival of interest in design from the period is very selective. In that interior the wallpaper is taken across the ceiling in a way not usual now and although all the individual fittings and pieces of furniture - including a Henningsen lamp, simple solid dining table with frame and square legs set flush and simple dining chairs with plain covers - might all be used now, the overall effect, with what appears to be walnut veneer on the door and architrave and a fitted sideboard in an alcove make the final effect distinctly of that period and presumably not one to be generally copied.

The book illustrates paired papers, again by Karlby, where a floral paper was set beside a simple but often large-scale geometric pattern in one of the main colours from the more complex design. This was for a feature wall … one wall or a chimney breast or the alcoves to be papered in a different but linked design.

Some bold designs, such as the broad vertical bands of Stribe by Ebbe and Karen Clemmensen from 1947 have a restrained tone range that could easily be used today but others have giant patterns in bold and strident colours where most furniture and some people would struggle to survive.


Information about opening times can be found on the site of the Nationalmuseet.