Exhibition Beautiful: The Art of Wallpaper

William Morris, champion of the Aesthetic Movement, said of interior design, “Whatever you have in your rooms, think first of the walls.” Wallpaper was a defining decorative motif in the homes of the Victorian avant-garde and bourgeoisie alike. In keeping with this fashion, the special exhibition The Cult of Beauty: The Victorian Avant-Garde, 1860–1900 , opening at the Legion of Honor on February 18, will feature several environments adorned with the hand printed art wallpaper of Bradbury & Bradbury.

Calling card

A calling card for "Art Paper Hangings" from the Victorian era.

An artisanal art wallpaper manufacturer located in Benicia, Bradbury & Bradbury has been creating sumptuous silk-screened art wallpaper for 30 years. As a teenager, company founder Bruce Bradbury encountered a Dante Gabriel Rossetti painting in a textbook that signaled a life-long passion for Victorian art and design.

Window inspiration

Bradbury’s appreciation for Victorian decorative arts ultimately took him across the pond. In England, he scoured the vaults of what is now the Victoria and Albert Museum, unearthing un-catalogued treasures from the likes of William Morris, Walter Crane and Bruce Talbert.

Original William Morris

From left to right, Stephen Bauer of Bradbury & Bradbury, curator in charge of European art Lynn Orr and senior graphic designer Juliana Pennington admire a piece of original William Morris wallpaper.

After a series of career missteps, Bradbury discovered an outcropping of Victorian-era factory buildings near the Benicia shipyards that were slated to be converted into artist studios. In 1982, Bradbury & Bradbury opened its doors, providing authentic wall coverings for San Francisco’s famed “Painted Ladies.”

Bradbury & Bradbury

Today, Bruce Bradbury’s vision is carried out by owner and artistic director, Stephen J. Bauer and his talented staff, whose handcrafted wallpapers dwell comfortably within the realms of art and interior design. The Fine Arts Museums are indebted to Bradbury & Bradbury’s enthusiastic support of this project, including the donation of the extensive wallpapers that create atmospheric backdrops for the objects on view throughout the installation.


Printed piece

Curator in charge of European art Dr. Lynn Federle Orr immediately recognized the impact Bradbury & Bradbury’s wallpaper would have installed in the exhibition, while director of retail operations Stuart Hata jumped at the chance to use panels as décor for the Museum Store, and director of public programs Renee Baldocchi and her team were inspired to facilitate art making activities based on the ornate papers.


It is our sincere hope that this exhibition inspires you to redecorate your home in the style of the Aesthetic Movement. If you do, be sure to reference the exhibition–Bradbury & Bradbury is offering a 5% discount to all customers who mention The Cult of Beauty!


The opening day of the exhibition features Art for Art’s Sake , a series of special public programs, including wallpaper-making demonstrations by the artists of Bradbury & Bradbury! The Cult of Beauty: The Victorian Avant-Garde, 1860–1900 will be on view at the Legion of Honor February 18–June 17, 2012.