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Mural, Dutch Clouds

This is a Mural. It was designed by Karel Martens and manufactured by Maharam. It is dated 2011 and we acquired it in 2012. Its medium is digital print on cellulose, latex, nylon substrate. It is a part of the Wallcoverings department.

Dutch Clouds, by Dutch graphic designer Karel Martens, takes a very unusual approach to the traditional scenic paper or mural. When viewed up close, the design is composed of thousands of multicolored icons arranged in rows. The icons were developed by Martens as a language to express color combinations. Reflecting Marten’s monoprint works, begun in the 1990s, these icons are based on his experiments in color and the results of overlapping colored shapes. When viewed from a distance, the viewer’s eye merges the icons together to form a design of white fluffy clouds against a blue background. This juxtaposition keeps the design visually interesting and dynamic, as the image appears to change from different perspectives. Traditionally, the landscape has always been the focal point of scenic wallpapers and murals. Certain manufacturers have prided themselves on their beautiful sky renderings: Zuber perfected the delicate shading of the sky from golden-yellow above the horizon to a beautiful blue above; Dufour was known for its puffy white clouds, skillfully printed with wood blocks. While the museum’s collection includes a more modern scenic paper designed in 1929 with a very low horizon line—said to be designed for modern buildings with lower ceilings—the focus is still the landscape. No manufacturer has ever made the sky the focal point, let alone the only element of the scene. This is truly a unique take on panoramic papers. Maharam Digital Projects are printed with UV-resistant water-based pigment inks on a latex-saturated washable substrate.
Karel Martens is a Dutch graphic designer whose body of work spans over 50 years. He received his training at the Arnhem Academy of Art and Industrial Arts in the Netherlands. He has taught graphic design at the university level since 1977, and was appointed to the Yale faculty in 1997 as senior critic in graphic design.
While the museum holds a number of Maharam textiles, Dutch Clouds, together with another Maharam digital project, Stamp World Map, would be the first examples of Maharam wallcoverings to enter the collection. The addition of these papers will augment the museum’s collection of scenic and panoramic wallpapers, which dates back to the early 19th century. The museum holds a number of scenics designed and/or produced during this early period (which evolved into decors or fresco papers around 1850, in which heavy architectural borders were installed like frames around non-repeating scenes), and several more scenic papers designed and produced in the early to mid-20th century. Panoramic papers evolved with changes in technology and housing and, in the 20th century, were more popularly presented as murals. The museum owns murals by world-renowned artists, as well as photo murals and pop art murals from the early postwar period. The two Maharam installations would help bring this collection up to date. The pieces will also strengthen an existing group of wallcoverings designed by significant textile and fashion designers, including Paul Martine, Dorothy Liebes, Marion Dorn, Jhane Barnes, Mary McFadden, and Txell Miras.

This object was featured in our Object of the Week series in a post titled Dutch Clouds or Color Icons?.

This object was donated by Maharam. It is credited Gift of Maharam.

Our curators have highlighted 6 objects that are related to this one. Here are three of them, selected at random:

  • Sidewall Sample
  • machine-printed paper.
  • Museum purchase from General Acquisitions Endowment and Friends of....
  • 2001-14-37

Its dimensions are

H x W x D: 243.8 x 406.4 cm (8 ft. x 13 ft. 4 in.)

Cite this object as

Mural, Dutch Clouds; Designed by Karel Martens (Dutch, b. 1939); Manufactured by Maharam (United States); USA; digital print on cellulose, latex, nylon substrate; H x W x D: 243.8 x 406.4 cm (8 ft. x 13 ft. 4 in.); Gift of Maharam; 2012-11-2-1/5

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<ref name=CH>{{cite web |url= |title=Mural, Dutch Clouds |author=Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum |accessdate=8 June 2023 |publisher=Smithsonian Institution}}</ref>