John Hewson and the French connection

Given that Philadelphia led the country in manufacturing wallpaper during the second half of the eighteenth century, while continuing to import regularly, it is not surprising that Hewson was influenced by wallpaper designs.28 At this time women preferred en suite decor, so an upholsterer might well commission Hewson to print chintz for bedcovers and other textiles using the customer’s wallpaper as a model.29 From there it would have been easy to alter the motifs and borders and print his own designs to sell as is or customized as requested. In his quest to compete with imported fabrics, Hewson found innovative ways to fulfill Philadelphians’ demands for the taste of France, China, and India in their interiors. His ingenuity culminated in a unique stamp on cotton that marks his work to this day.

1 For more about Hewson and his textiles, see Kimberly Wulfert, “The Man of Many Vases: John Hewson, Calico Printer,” Folk Art: Magazine of the American Folk Art Museum (Fall 2007), pp. 58–69.
2 The photograph appeared in Richard C. Nylander, Elizabeth Redmond, and Penny J. Sander, Wallpaper in New England (Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities, Boston, 1986), p. 73, Fig. 13b, where it was said to date from 1940 to 1950, but it was probably taken in the 1930s because it shows a view very similar to that in a photograph in Walter Rendell Storey, “The Lore that Belongs to Wallpapers,” New York Times, November 26, 1933.
3 Bernard Jacqué, “Luxury Perfected: The Ascendancy of French Wallpaper 1770–1870,” in The Papered Wall: History, Pattern, Technique, ed. Lesley Hoskins (Abrams, New York, 1994), pp. 59–60; and Hans Ottomeyer, The Metamorphosis of the Neoclassical Vase,” Vasemania, Neoclassical Form and Ornament in Europe, ed. Stephanie Walker (Yale University Press, New Haven, 2004), p. 20.
4 Based on the records of the extensive eighteenth- and nineteenth-century French wallpaper collections at Historic New England, Boston; the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum, both in New York City; the Musée des arts décoratifs, Paris; and the Musée du papier peint, Rixheim, France. My deepest gratitude to Pilar Garro, formerly of the wallpaper collections department at Historic New England, for assisting with this search and for providing expert advice on many occasions.
5 Storey, “The Lore that Belongs to Wallpapers.”
6 Label on the photograph in Fig. 3, copy negative 13213-B, Rose Nichols Collection, Historic New England. Barclay credited Nancy V. McClelland (1876–1959), an interior decorator and wallpaper expert who eventually became her partner, for her specialization in French wallpapers; see Isabella Barclay to Parke-Bernet Galleries, September 10, 1959, published in French XVIII Century Furniture, sale 1922, Parke-Bernet, New York, October 30 and 31, 1959.
7 See Michelangelo Pergolesi, Designs for Various Ornaments/Michael Angelo Pergolesi (London, 1777–1801); and Eighteenth Century Architectural Ornamentation, Furniture and Decoration by M. A. Pergolesi and Other Eminent Artists (Boston and New York [1804]).
8 A riot at Réveillon’s factory on the eve of the French Revolution caused it to be closed on April 27, 1789. Whether he returned to work again has not been established. The consensus is that he did not, but there is room for doubt since the factory was not completely destroyed in the riot and may have begun operations again in the fall of 1789. Réveillion rented the factory to Jacquemart and Bénard in May 1791 and they purchased it in May 1792. See Véronique de Bruignac, “Arabesques and Allegories: French Decorative Panels,” in The Papered Wall, p. 84.
9 For the sale to French and Company see Barclay’s Ledger 47593, stock no. 80551, French and Company, box 57, Special Collections and Visual Resources, Research Library, Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles. Brian Gracie, chairman of the Gracie firm, told me in a recent telephone conversation that Charles R. Gracie and Sons purchased the paper at the French and Company auction in 1968 and about its sale in 1987.
10 Richard Nylander and Pilar Garro suggested I contact the antique wallpaper dealer Carolle Thibaut-Pomerantz of New York and Paris, who sent me the photograph in Fig. 2 and others of the paper, which she called Décor Réveillon, c. 1785, hanging in a private residence. In a telephone conversation on January 16, 2006, she indicated that the owner had purchased the paper from Gracie and wanted anonymity.
11 Bernard Jacqué, “Wallpaper in the Royal Apartments at the Tuileries, 1789–1792,” Studies in the Decorative Arts, vol. 13, no. 1 (Fall–Winter, 2005–2006), pp. 10–11. I consulted the following about the origin of the paper: Richard Nylander, coauthor of Wallpaper in New England; Véronique de Bruignac-La Hougue, the wallpaper curator at the Musée des arts décoratifs; and Philippe de Fabry, archivist at the Musée du papier peint. Steve Larson of Adelphi Wallpapers contacted Bernard Jacqué, curator of the Musée du papier peint, about it for me in 2004. See also Pierre Kjellberg, “Tous les motifs qui assurent depuis deux siècles le succès du papier peint Louis XVI,” Connaissance des Arts, vol. 152 (October 1964), p. 118. I am most grateful to Isabelle Etienne-Bugnot of Paris, a former quilt magazine editor, for translating conversations and written materials for me.
12 Nos. 968 and 969, Billot Album, dated 1789, Musée du papier peint. My thanks to Philippe de Fabry for this information contained in e-mails dated March 19, 2007, and February 20, 2008. A detail photograph of the medallion landscapes, which were cut out from the borders and pasted onto plain paper, is in de Bruignac, “Arabesques and Allegories,” p. 85, no. 109A, where it is referred to as a Pompeian scheme.
13 Nylander et al., Wallpaper in New England, pp. 72–73.
14 Jacqué, “Wallpaper in the Royal Apartments at the Tuileries,” p. 12.
15 Catherine Lynn, Wallpaper in America: From the Seventeenth Century to World War I (W. W. Norton, New York, 1980), pp. 102, 104, 89; and Gill Saunders, “The China Trade: Oriental Painted Panels,” in The Papered Wall, p. 42.
16 Ibid., p. 101; Francoise Teynac, Pierre Nolot and Jean-Denis Vivien, Wallpaper, a History, trans. Conway Lloyd Morgan (Rizzoli, New York, 1982), pp. 61–62.
17 Saunders, “The China Trade,”p. 49; Teynac, Nolot, and Vivien, Wallpaper, a History, p. 64.
18 For an example, see Wulfert, “Man of Many Vases,” p. 62.
19 Saunders, “The China Trade,” p. 49.
20 The ceiling wallpaper is Réveillon’s no. 992, e-mail from de Fabry, March 19, 2007. De Bruignac-La Hougue provided me with a reference to a photograph of it from the Maison Follot sale, Papiers peints anciens, Sotheby Parke Bernet, Monaco, Monte Carlo, February 7, 1982, Lot 267.
21 Conover Hunt, “A Rare Printed Quilt by an American Patriot,” Daughters of the American Revolution Magazine, vol.109, no. 4 (April 1975), pp. 286–288.
22 Two other whole-cloth bedcovers are recorded: one, in the Philadelphia Museum of Art, is illustrated in Wulfert, “The Man of Many Vases,” p. 60; the whereabouts of the other is unknown (ibid., p. 69, n. 24).
23 For examples of c. 1815 printed medallions made for quilts, see Florence M. Montgomery, Printed Textiles: English and American Cottons and Linens 1700–1850(Viking, New York, 1970), p. 356; and Linda Eaton, Quilts in a Material World: Selections from the Winterthur Museum (Abrams, New York, 2006), p. 83.
24 Saunders, “The China Trade,” p. 49.
25 Jacqué, “Wallpaper in the Royal Apartments at the Tuileries,”pp. 19–23.
26 Lynn, Wallpaper in America, pp. 56, 65; Charles C. Oman and Jean Hamilton, Wallpapers: An International History and Illustrated Survey from the Victoria and Albert Museum (Abrams, New York, 1982), p. 31.
27 For examples of cutout chintz appliqué quilts with Hewson prints, see Wulfert, “The Man of Many Vases,” p. 62; and Eaton, Quilts in a Material World, pp. 97, 84–85, 119.
28 For the information about wallpaper manufacture and importation, see Lynn, Wallpaper in America, pp. 110–111, 121, 161.
29 Ibid., p. 150, records that upholstery was matched to the walls in the 1790s; see also p. 111 for a 1790 advertisement seeking calico printers and paper stainers to make wallpapers. Lynn points out (ibid., p. 30) that the same wood blocks could be used to print either.

KIMBERLY WULFERT is an independent researcher who writes and lectures on textile history, with an emphasis on the life and works of John Hewson.

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[Compiled by Bill Stern, Executive Director at the Museum of California Design, Los Angeles. Originally published in "Curator's Eye" in Modern Magazi

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