If the walls could speak to us, what would they tell? What intimacies would they have witnessed? Rather than exploring the ability of walls to absorb and reproduce, Richard Harmanni discussed the physical aspects of what walls have to offer. Harmanni took us from the block-printing technique to the industrial revolution which made wallpapers available to the masses. We saw how new wallpaper is covered over the old, creating thick layers that offer a fascinating insight into changing tastes and fashions of past centuries. We discovered for instance that the first paper wallpaper wasn’t actually used on a wall. ‘Speaking Walls’ revealed countless fascinating aspects of wallpaper, then and now.
Dr. Richard Harmanni is an art and interiors historian and an expert in the field of historic wall and ceiling finishings, particularly murals and paper wallcoverings. In addition to working as an independent researcher and publicist, he is a guest lecturer at the universities of Amsterdam and Leiden. From 2001-2007 Dr. Richard Harmanni coordinated a large-scale project in the Netherlands to catalogue wall and ceiling paintings, commissioned by the Netherlands Institute for Art History and the Cultural Heritage Agency. In 2006 he completed his doctoral dissertation on Jurriaan Andriessen (1742-1819), ‘wallpaper painter’, which was awarded the J.W. Frederiks Prize. Since 2007 Richard Harmanni has worked on a project basis for numerous private individuals, antiquarians and institutions such as Delft University of Technology, Museum van Loon, the Rijksmuseum, the Cultural Heritage Agency and the Government Buildings Agency. He is also chair of the Stichting Historische Behangsels en Wanddecoraties in Nederland and author of the publication ‘Papieren behang. Een rijke geschiedenis’ (2007).
Before and after the lecture of Richard Harmanni a mini-exposition in the foyer of Het Nieuwe Instituut showed unique wallpapers from architects Cuypers, Van der Laan and Berlage from Het Nieuwe Instituut archive and of wallpaper manufacturer Rath & Doodeheefver.