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Over 10,000 wallcoverings make this collection one of the largest and rarest in the world. collections of wallpaper in the country


Wallpaper collections are relatively rare

The Whitworth's is made up of more than 10,000 examples, the bulk of which were given to the gallery in 1967 by The Wall Paper Manufacturers Ltd., which had controlled most of the UK wallpaper industry since 1899. The Whitworth felt like a fitting home for the products of an industry whose mechanisation, like that of textiles, was pioneered in the North West. Since the 1970s, further donations and purchases have helped make the collection one of the most important in the country.

Ours is a diverse and highly eclectic collection whose range encompasses everything from elite hand-printed decorations to examples of industrial production for the popular market. It contains wallpapers and other wall coverings dating from the 17th century to the present, from simple patterns printed on small sheets of paper and 18th-century luxurious embossed and gilt leather hangings to numerous late 19th-century examples by designers such as William Morris and Walter Crane.

Our broad range of wallpapers from the 20th century demonstrate the skill of craftspeople, the inventiveness of early post-war design and the exuberance of the 1960s and 1970s. Modern and contemporary examples in our collection by artists such as Robert Gober, Niki de Saint Phalle, Damien Hirst and Sarah Lucas reflect wallpaper’s move from backdrop to centre stage.

While many of our exhibitions are made up from works in our permanent collection, the Whitworth has nothing on permanent display.
For more information about our current and forthcoming exhibitions see what’s on at the gallery or find out more about the history of the Whitworth.


Lead image

Niki de Saint Phalle (1930-2002), Nana, 1972

Screen printed wallpaper


This is on display in (Un)Defining Queer(27 January – 3 December 2023)