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Object Timeline

1926

  • Work on this object began.

1956

  • Work on this object ended.

2010

  • We acquired this object.

2021

  • You found it!

Scenic (China), 1926–56

This is a Scenic. It was designed by Unknown. It is dated 1926–56 and we acquired it in 2010. Its medium is hand-painted viscose rayon, paper backing. It is a part of the Wallcoverings department.

This 17th-century Chinese hand-painted wallpaper represents one of the earliest wallcoverings. Chinese scenics are credited with creating the demand for wallpapers in Europe and America, and have remained popular luxury goods since their introduction. They have also inspired many imitations in the Western market. This set is beautifully painted in detail and exemplifies early to mid-20th-century styling.
Noteworthy features include Chinese figures performing leisure pursuits, the use of bright colors and strong geometric patterning, exotic landscapes, and the work of the artist’s hand. The material reflects the era in which the set was created. The panels are made from viscose rayon, which is the first successful artificial silk; it was developed in the 1890s from cellulose wood fiber. The first commercial viscose rayon was produced in England by Courtaulds in 1905. In 1924, the name of the fiber was officially changed to rayon in the United States.
The set was originally installed in Broadhollow, a 29-room mansion in Brookville, Long Island, in New York, although the exact date of the panels’ installation is uncertain. Broadhollow was built by Winthrop Aldrich in 1926 and sold to Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt in 1950. When the house was sold six years later to James Donahue, a Woolworth heir, the panels were documented as installed. Donahue was so taken with the Chinese scenic panels that he hired Billy Baldwin, one of the leading mid-20th-century decorators, to design the dining room around this paper. The result was featured in the November 1957 issue of House & Garden.
The museum’s collection includes a full set of Chinese scenics from the 18th century and several panels from the 19th century. The addition of panels from the 20th century would allow the museum to show the continuity of—and distinctions among—Chinese hand-painted scenics over the course of several centuries.

This object was donated by Harry Hinson. It is credited Gift of Harry Hinson.

Its dimensions are

L x W x D: 191.8 x 87 cm (6 ft. 3 1/2 in. x 34 1/4 in.)

Cite this object as

Scenic (China), 1926–56; Designed by Unknown ; hand-painted viscose rayon, paper backing; L x W x D: 191.8 x 87 cm (6 ft. 3 1/2 in. x 34 1/4 in.); Gift of Harry Hinson; 2010-42-1

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

<ref name=CH>{{cite web |url=https://www-6.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/18738327/ |title=Scenic (China), 1926–56 |author=Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum |accessdate=5 December 2021 |publisher=Smithsonian Institution}}</ref>