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Professor Clare Taylor

Profile summary

Professional biography

Clare Taylor is Professor of Art History and Material Cultures. Her research focuses on the historic interior and its decoration and the relationship between consumers, designers, makers and objects. She joined the Open University in 2011, having previously taught at Middlesex & Bucks Universities and for the Open University as an Associate Lecturer. Clare has also worked as an Art Curator in museums, galleries and for English Heritage across England, Scotland and Wales.

Research interests

Clare's book The Design, Production & Reception of Eighteenth-century wallpaper in Britain (Routledge) was shortlisted by The Historians of British Art Book Prize in 2019. This monograph aligned the growth of wallpaper with developing cultures of luxury, sociability and global trade through study of sites, archives and museum collections across the UK. It argued that wallpaper was a key new material of the long eighteenth-century which made a significant contribution to design, including Chinoserie and a taste for imitation in 'mock India' (English wallpapers imitating Chinese) and 'mock flock' wallpapers. It also showed how the nascent wallpaper industry successfully competed with other trades and spawned new materials for use in decorating the interior, such as papier mâché.

Clare's next book project uncovers the role of gilt leather hangings and related objects in the creation of interiors. She is conducting the first full investigation of the people, places and objects associated with Gilt Leather Rooms across the British Isles, researching not just archival and museum sources, but extant schemes in buildings from castles to the country house, inns to college rooms. She has been awarded a Mid-Career Fellowship and a Research Support Grant from the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art to support her research in connection with this project. The project aims to throw new light on the global nature and usage of gilt leather and on the relationship between printed sources, architectural structures and wall decorations.

A third area of interest is the ways in which the historic interior has been re-interpreted in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, in particular investigating the work of decorators, dealers and scholars in promulgating the idea of the 'Georgian' and the ways in which the long eighteenth-century has been viewed through tropes such as the country house style.

Clare welcomes enquiries from potential research students, and would be happy to supervise topics related to her specialisms, in particular on eighteenth-century material culture, issues of gender difference and on twentieth century design as well as in the field of the interior. Contact:

Completed students:

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

Emma Hardy  'A Modern but Useful Art: William Morris, Jeffrey & Co and the Morris & Co wallpapers 1864-c.1928', CDA with the Sanderson Archive Emma Hardy | Open-Oxford-Cambridge AHRC Doctoral Training Partnership (

Current students:

Lesley Burch 'Sir Alfred East (1844-1913)' (M Phil)

Kerry Apps 'Imagining Asia at Ham House: c.1637-1698', CDA with The National Trust Kerry-Louise Apps | Open-Oxford-Cambridge AHRC Doctoral Training Partnership (

Selected publications  


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

Chapters in books

(forthcoming) ‘In search of the Georgian period room, c.1900-c.1945: Scholars, Dealers and Decorators’, in Howard Coutts, Mark Westgarth and Jane Whittaker (eds) The Period Room: Museum, Material, Experience.  

 ‘ “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

(forthcoming) ‘Musical instrument covers and their makers in eighteenth and nineteenth century Britain and Ireland’, Galpin Society Journal, 2024

‘Gilt Leather at Gwydir Castle’ PMC Notes, 20, Winter 2022, pp. 21-28

'Revisiting London paper-hangings tradesmen I: Crompton & Spinnage', The Wallpaper History Review (2020) 44-50

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

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

Fota House and its Wallpaper Archive ( 2022

‘She is now of the family of Champcommunal and other money makers’: women, antiques and interiors in mid twentieth-century London | antiquedealersblog for the AHRC funded research project ‘Antique Dealers: The British Antique Trade in the 20th Century, a cultural geography’ University of Leeds, 2021

Solving the puzzle: Unexpected findings inside A History of English Furniture | antiquedealersblog for the AHRC funded research project ‘Antique Dealers: The British Antique Trade in the 20th Century, a cultural geography’ University of Leeds, 2021

Teaching interests

Clare has contributed to the running of Art History's Undergraduate and Postgraduate modules, including chairing the popular second level Art History module A226, Exploring Art & Visual Culture. Her 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 pattern designer Enid Marx. She has also written a chapter on Chinoiserie in eighteenth-century Britain for the well received Level 3 Art History module, A344, Art & its Global Histories.

She was the Convenor for Art History on the inter-disciplinary Arts & Humanities Level 1 module, A112 Cultures. Clare edited, and authored on, the Art History block and on the module's inter-disciplinary teaching producing units on the Elizabethan country house, Grand Tour portraiture, Shakespearean imagery and on contemporary artists and place was also a Block Convenor on A336 Art and its Critical Histories and is a module author on A237 Art and Life before 1800. Her work on Frost Fairs for A237 generated a piece on The Conversation Today's winter wonderlands have roots in Jacobean and Georgian frost fairs ( She is now part of the Module Team on A336.

Clare has also contributed films to Open Arts Objects, an innovative project that provides free open access films and teaching support materials geared to the Art History A-level, including:

Yinka Shonibare, Ship in a Bottle, 2010

Vinyl wallpaper, 1960s

She has a particular interest in innovation in teaching and worked with Dr Heather Richardson from Creative Writing on Scholarship projects examining how students in Art History and Creative Writing learned by interrogating art works. Creative Interactions: Teaching with the Open University's Art Collection centred on the University's own art collection and examined the creative and critical synergies between the two disciplines: ‘The Creative Interactions project: Sharing Teaching approaches across Art History & Creative Writing’, Writing in Education 84, Summer 2021, pp. 58-62

Impact and engagement

Clare frequently presents to the heritage sector on issues around the historic interior and its interpretation, most recently to the ICOM-CC Leather and Related Materials Working Group. She has also shared her work on the global and the interplay between imported luxury goods and new products, such as ‘”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 and RCA with The National Trust

Clare was a founder member of the steering committee of GOTH (Gender and Otherness in the Humanities), a Research Centre based in the the School of Arts & Humanities Gender and Otherness in the Humanities | Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (

External collaborations

Clare has worked in collaboration with a number of museums and heritage bodies on films as part of her contributions to OU teaching. These include Compton Verney in Warwickshire (on the Marx-Lambert collection) and the Museum of the Home (on the period room), both for A844, Part 2 of the MA in Art History; and with The National Trust at Hardwick Hall in Derbyshire (on the Elizabethan country house) for A112, Cultures.

She also advises national and international bodies on matters related to historic wallpaper's collection and research. These have included the National Maritime Museum and the National Archives.

Clare has also shared her research with wider audiences via OU/BBC co-productions. She contributed films to 'Travelling Objects' in connection with the OU/BBC series Civilisations:

‘The Garrick Bed, c.1775’

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

She was also Academic Consultant for the prime-time BBC/OU series, Secrets of the Museum: Behind the Scenes at the V&A and authored for the Open Learn interactive, 'Can you be a Curator?'

Clare is a founder member of a global network made up of scholars, curators, wallpaper manufacturers, heritage professionals and conservators working on Chinese wallpaper. She is also part of the British Chinese Studies Network composed of scholars, writers and film-makers.

Research groups

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


Externally funded projects

Gilt Leather Rooms - Phase 2: Decorating with leather hangings in Britain
RoleStart dateEnd dateFunding source
Lead01 Jun 202230 Sep 2023Paul Mellon Centre

This project builds on the 2021 site-based research in two ways. First, it extends the project’s scope to the island of Ireland, in order to investigate how far schemes were indebted to either English and/or Scottish models, or indeed broader European trends. Second, it builds on site-based findings by extending research into archival sources, not only written (correspondence, inventories etc) but also visual (notably photographic), to provide clues to the choice, installation and reception of gilt leather hangings and related objects.

Gilt Leather Rooms
RoleStart dateEnd dateFunding source
Lead01 Jul 202131 Oct 2021Paul Mellon Centre

This innovative research project will uncover the key role of gilt leather hangings and related objects in relation to issues of status in the creation of ‘Leather Rooms’. It will also throw new light on the relationship between printed sources, architectural structures and other wall decorations in the material culture of the interior. It will do this by conducting the first full investigation of the people, places and objects associated with ‘Leather Rooms’ across the British Isles.


Old blocks and modern papers: the enduring appeal of eighteenth-century wallpaper patterns (2024)
Taylor, Clare
The Wallpaper History Review, 2024 ((In press))

Musical instrument covers and their makers in eighteenth and nineteenth century Britain and Ireland (2024)
Taylor, Clare
Galpin Society Journal, 2024 ((In press))

The Creative Interactions Project (2021-09)
Taylor, Clare and Richardson, Heather
Writing in Education, 84 (pp. 58-62)

Revisiting London paper hangings tradesmen I: Crompton & Spinnage, c.1750-c.1770 (2020-09)
Taylor, Clare
The Wallpaper History Review, 2020 (pp. 44-50)

[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

An authentic material? Gilt leather imitations in late nineteenth-century Britain (2024)
Taylor, Clare
In : 12th Interim Meeting of the ICOM-CC Leather and Related Materials Working Group (12-13 Oct 2022, Online)