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Dr Clare Taylor

Clare Taylor

Profile summary

  • Staff Tutor and Senior Lecturer in Art History
  • Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences
  • School of Arts & Humanities
  • Art History
  • clare.taylor

Professional biography

I am an historian of art and design who specialises in the interior and its decoration. After a first degree in Modern History at Durham I studied Art Gallery & Museum Studies at Manchester, and worked as an art curator at galleries including Manchester and Aberdeen where I was responsible for the restoration of a historic house museum and contributed to exhibitions on topics ranging from Scottish watercolours to the growth of public parks in Manchester. As a curator for English Heritage I was also responsible, with the Royal Collection Trust, for the restoration of the Royal Nurseries at Osborne House

I received a Design History Society Research Bursary for my PhD ‘Figured Paper for Hanging Rooms’: The manufacture, design and consumption of wallpapers for English domestic interiors, c.1740-c.1800. Before joining the Open University I was Lecturer in Contextual & Theoretical studies to Design based students at the Universities of Middlesex and Bucks New University. I also taught for the Open University as an Associate Lecturer, delivering Undergraduate modules in Arts subjects.

Research interests

My interests in the material culture of the home, especially its design and decoration, grew out of an interest in wallpaper which I discovered in the collection at the Whitworth Art Gallery in Manchester. Study of wallpaper’s role in the interior raises issues related to gender difference and domesticity, perceptions of home and the relationship between art and architecture. Wallpaper also has moments when it moves from the background to the foreground, and it’s those moments that I have focused on in my research.

Wallpaper is a particularly interesting material through which to examine the shifting intersections between design, consumption and taste. I have looked at these intersections in several articles on the eighteenth century, examining the ways in which trade cards defined its commercially viable qualities and also at the relationship with papermaking and retailing. My monograph The Design, Production & Reception of Eighteenth-century wallpaper in Britain (2018) aligned the growth of wallpaper with developing cultures of luxury, politeness and sociability through study of sites- from town houses to country houses- archives and museum collections across the UK. It argued that wallpaper was a key new decorative material of the century and one which spawned new trades and fashions in decoration.

I am also interested in how the eighteenth century interior has been reinterpreted in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, seen in the Epilogue to my monograph: 'Pleasing decay: the rediscovery of eighteenth-century wallpapers'. In 2014 I also published the first study of the revival of interest in eighteenth-century Chinese wallpaper. For the first study of Neo-Georgian architecture published by Historic England in 2016 I wrote on the wider subject of the Neo-Georgian interior, as manifested in both the country house and the London flat. This research has taken me into new areas of research among the men and women who worked in the nascent profession of interior designer, examining the relationship of historical styles to modernism. My background in curatorship has also led to an interest in the period room and its commercial antecedents, explored in my forthcoming book chapter 'In search of the Georgian period room c.1900-c.1945: Scholars, Dealers and decorators' and in a paper on  Regency Revival interiors delivered in 2019 to a conference on Modermism in the Home, held at the University of Birmingham.

I welcome enquiries from potential research students, and would be happy to supervise topics related to my specialisms, in particular on eighteenth-century material culture, issues of gender difference and on twentieth century design. Current students:

Amanda Stevens   ‘Home on the Rails: the Design, Fitting and Decoration of Train Interiors in Britain, c.1920-1955’, AHRC funded Collaborative Doctoral Award (CDA) with the National Railway Museum, York

Emma Hardy  'Utopian collaboration? William Morris, Jeffrey & Co and the Morris & Co wallpapers 1864-c.1928', Open-Oxford-Cambridge Doctoral Training Partnership CDA with the Sanderson Archive


Selected publications  


The Design, Production & Reception of Eighteenth-century wallpaper in Britain ('The Histories of Material Culture and Collecting,1700-1950' series, Routledge, 2018)

Chapters in books

 ‘ “Modern Swedish Rococo”: the Neo-Georgian interior in Britain c.1920-c.1945’  in Holder, J. and McKellar, E. (eds) Re-Appraising Neo-Georgian Architecture: Colonial, Domestic and Pastoral Visions 1850-1970 (Swindon: Historic England, 2016), 151-166

‘ “Painted paper of Pekin”: eighteenth-century Chinese papers in 1920s Britain’, in Huang, M. (ed.) The Reception of Chinese Art across cultures (Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2014) 44-64

‘Chinese papers and English imitations in eighteenth-century Britain’, in Stavelow-Hidemark, E. (ed.) New Discoveries, New Research : Papers from the international wallpaper conference at the Nordiska Museet, Stockholm, 2007 (Stockholm: The Nordiska Museet, 2009) 36-53

Journal articles

English wallpaper manufacture, c.1700-c.1800’, The Quarterly: Journal of the British Association of Paper Historian, 83 (July 2012), 13-23

‘Eckhardts & Co and the supply of wall decorations for Shugborough’, Georgian Group Journal, xix (2011) 145-150

 ‘Reading the cards: trade cards as sources for studying the British Eighteenth-century wallpaper trade’, The Wallpaper History Review (2008) 29-32

‘The Division of the Wall: the use of wallpapers in decorative schemes 1870-1910’, Journal of the Decorative Arts Society, 12 (1988) 18-25

Online contributions

‘Leather, flock and paper: Early wall coverings at Greyfriars House, Worcester’, Arts, Buildings & Collections Bulletin, Swindon: The National Trust, Summer 2018, 19-22


Teaching interests

I have contributed to the running of Art History's Undergraduate and Postgraduate modules, including our popular second level Art History module A226, Exploring Art & Visual Culture. My teaching contributions to part 2 of the MA in Art History (A844) are on approaches to the study interiors, and on collecting and practice in the work of the twentieth century British designer, Enid Marx. I have also written a chapter on Chinoiserie in eighteenth-century Britain for the well received Level 3 Art History module, A344, Art & its Global Histories. I am currently convening Art History's contribution to the new inter-disciplinary Arts & Humanities Level 1 module, Cultures, which will be studied for the first time in October 2020.

My contributions to Open Arts Objects include:

Yinka Shonibare, Ship in a Bottle, 2010

Vinyl wallpaper, 1960s

I also have a particular interest in innovation in teaching. I am currently working, with my Creative Writing colleague Heather Richardson, on a project examining how students in Art History and Creative Writing learn by interrogating art works. Creative Interactions: Teaching with the Open University's Art Collection centres on the University's own art collection and examines the creative and critical synergies between our disciplines.

Impact and engagement

I frequently present to conferences on issues around the home and its decoration, and am especially interested in inter-disciplinary approaches. These have been explored for example in ‘‘Resale, restore, reprint: Rediscovering historic wallpapers in early twentieth-century Britain’, a paper presented to the 'Working with Wallpapers' conference organised by the Wallpaper HistorySociety/English Heritage

A second strand is the global and the interplay between imported luxury goods and new novelty products, discussed for example in my paper ‘”A Large Assortment of Curious India Paper”: the Eighteenth-Century English Market for Chinese Wallpaper’ to the conference ‘Chinese wallpaper: Trade, techniques and taste' organised by the V&A/RCA/National Trust I also contributed to OpenLearn's Travelling Objects:

‘The Garrick Bed, c.1775’

‘Yinka Shonibare: Nelson’s Ship in a Bottle, 2010’



External collaborations

As part of my online teaching contributions to A844, Part 2 of the MA in Art History, I recorded podcasts in collaboration with two museums, Compton Verney in Warwickshire and the Geffrye Museum of the Home in East London.

I have recently made films with The National Trust and OU colleagues at Hardwick Hall in Derbyshire, for the forthcoming module A112, Cultures.

Both my current PhD students hold Collaborative Doctoral Awards, one linked to a national museum, the other to a business archive.

I am a member of a global network made up of scholars, curators, wallpaper manufacturers, heritage professionals and conservators interested in Chinese wallpaper.

Research Activity

Research groups

NameTypeParent Unit
Gender in the Humanities Research GroupGroupFaculty of Arts
Material Cultures Research GroupGroupFaculty of Arts


[Book Review] Designing the French interior: the modern home and mass media (2018-06-26)
Taylor, Clare
Cultural and Social History, 15(4) (pp. 618-620)
English wallpaper manufacture, c.1700-c.1800 (2012-07)
Taylor, Clare
The Quarterly (Journal of the British Association of Paper Historians), 83 (pp. 13-23)
Eckhardts & Co and the supply of wall decorations for Shugborough (2011)
Taylor, Clare
The Georgian Group Journal, XIX (pp. 145-150)
Reading the cards: discovering the British eighteenth-century wallpaper trade (2008)
Taylor, Clare
The Wallpaper History Review (pp. 29-32)
The Design, Production and Reception of Eighteenth-century Wallpaper in Britain (2018-06-12)
Taylor, Clare
The Histories of Material Culture and Collecting, 1700-1950, ed. Stacey J. Pierson
ISBN : 978-1-4724-5615-1 | Publisher : Routledge | Published : Abingdon, Oxon and New York
‘Modern Swedish rococo’: the Neo-Georgian interior in Britain, c 1920–c 1945 (2016-05-15)
Taylor, Clare
In: McKellar, Elizabeth and Holder, Julian eds. Neo-Georgian Architecture 1880-1970: A Reappraisal (pp. 151-166)
ISBN : 978-1-84802-235-5 | Publisher : Historic England | Published : Swindon
“Painted paper of Pekin”: the taste for eighteenth-century Chinese papers in Britain, c.1918-c.1945 (2014-07-01)
Taylor, Clare
In: Huang, Michelle Ying-ling ed. The Reception of Chinese Art across Cultures (pp. 44-64)
ISBN : 978-1-4438-5909-7 | Publisher : Cambridge Scholars Publishing | Published : Cambridge
Chinese papers and English imitations in 18th Century Britain (2009)
Taylor, Clare
In: Stavenow-Hidemark, Elisabet ed. New Discoveries New Research: Papers from the International wallpaper conference held at the Nordiska Museet, Stockholm, 2007 (pp. 36-53)
ISBN : 978-91-7108-532-0 | Publisher : Nordiska Museets Forlag | Published : Stockholm