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Sidewall, When in Rome

This is a sidewall. It was manufactured by Denst and Soderland. It is dated 1958 and we acquired it in 1959. Its medium is screen printed on silk. It is a part of the Wallcoverings department.

This design consists of five different structures of the ancient world, all very stylized and patrolled by a peculiar cast of characters. Structures include the coliseum, the pantheon, ruins from the Roman Forum, and possibly a horreum or public warehouse. Appearing in front of each structure are Roman soldiers either on foot or horseback, or riding in a chariot. The figures are also highly stylized, appearing as caricatures. The design is printed in two colors on a soft yellow silk ground.
Each of the colors is printed to suggest a linoleum block or rubber stamp print, or possibly much wear or abrasion, as one would expect to find on an “ancient” artifact. The Museum collection contains several other wallpaper designs by Hawking for Denst & Soderlund that contain a similar look, giving his designs a handcrafted look, and a certain elegance.
Clarence Hawking is a graphic artist who joined the firm of Denst and Soderlund in 1951 as one of the chief designers. He remained with the company for a number a years and designed many wallpapers including both repeating patterns and murals. Denst and Soderlund was a Chicago-based company active from 1947-1961, at which time the duo parted ways and the firm became Jack Denst Designs. John R. Denst and Donald K. Soderlund both graduated from the Art Institute of Chicago in 1946 and founded their partnership the following year. After landing a major job with the Desert Inn in Las Vegas, the company began receiving orders from set designers and their wallpaper was used in the 1971 psychological thriller “Play Misty for Me.” Denst was well known for his whimsical titles which intrigued the producers of “What’s My Line” enough to ask him to appear as a guest in the early 1960s.

This object was featured in our Object of the Week series in a post titled When in Rome.

It is credited Gift of Denst and Soderlund, Inc..

  • Overdoor (France)
  • block-printed on handmade paper.
  • Gift of Eleanor and Sarah Hewitt.
  • 1931-45-76

Its dimensions are

183.5 x 76.5 cm (72 1/4 x 30 1/8 in.)

It is inscribed

Printed in left selvedge: When in Rome / A Denst and Soderlund Wallpaper; printed in right selvedge: Designed by C. Hawking.

Cite this object as

Sidewall, When in Rome; Manufactured by Denst and Soderland ; USA; screen printed on silk; 183.5 x 76.5 cm (72 1/4 x 30 1/8 in.); Gift of Denst and Soderlund, Inc.; 1959-130-1

This object was previously on display as a part of the exhibition Kitsch to Corbusier: Wallpapers from the 1950s.

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If you would like to cite this object in a Wikipedia article please use the following template:

<ref name=CH>{{cite web |url= |title=Sidewall, When in Rome |author=Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum |accessdate=29 November 2022 |publisher=Smithsonian Institution}}</ref>