The word “painting” gets a whole new meaning when you walk into one of the 30 De-Gournay showrooms around the globe. After their amazing work for Ken Fulk’s dining room at the 2017 Kips-Bay showhouse, we had to learn more about this brand, and a world filled with beauty and Chinese wall paintings was revealed to us.
Where did it all begin?
In 1984, an accountant named Claud Cecil Gourney tried to restore an old wallpaper in his house using oil paints. The restoration was extremely successful and aroused his interest in the art of wall paintings.
33 years down the road, and the small family company that he founded for high-end wall paintings, wallpapers, and porcelain is active in more than 30 states!
Who’s really drawing the paintings?
The company’s products are manufactured in China, but not for the common reason of cheap work force, but quite the contrary. The Chinese artisans, who are mostly located in Daoguang county of China, were perceived to De-Gournay as an essential stage in the manufacturing process. He was actually one of the first entrepreneurs to manufacture in China in the mid 1980’s.
Try to imagine the high society of China walking into De-Gournay’s showroom in Shanghai just to find out that it is not French art that’s being sold, but rather wall paintings that were inspired by the Chinese culture.
So is it French or Asian?
Let’s talk about it for a second, because like many cultural elements that were perceived as a scion of the European culture (unjustly), wallpapers and wall paintings were a thing in the Asian culture in the early 14th century, while the first known documentation of it in Europe is from the 17th century in a configuration of wall carpeting that was familiar with the low-middle classes.
Chinese wall paintings were an artesian monument of the culture and history of China and were highly appreciated among the high-society. However, when the western culture copied this art, it was perceived as an aggregated part of a European design style known as “Chinoiserie”.
Because of De-Gournay’s ongoing work with Chinese artisans, it manages to create a unique and high-quality product, and to be as least commercialized as possible (to a certain extent of course: we’re talking about a global company that takes part in the rebranding projects of companies like Tiffany & Co).
How is it done?
De-Gournay wallpapers are made from several layers, where each layer is made from a different material.
The bottom layer is canvas, the middle one is muslin (cotton), and the top layer (the one that is visible) is made from either paper or silk. The paint is also made from several layers of water color painted on top of each other. In general, the Chinese water colors used for wall paper do not include solid pigments. On top of the water color, ink is used to enhance outlines and create depth. This technique creates a small illusion of both a third dimension and depth.
We were lucky enough to visit a room that all of its walls are decorated with De-Gournay’s wall paintings and the feeling was indescribable. A complete escapism from reality to a magical world of colors and nature, mixed with calm and authentic Asian scents.
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