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Sit! Stay! Spell!

Alphabet Dogs

“Alphabet” border, designed by William Wegman, distributed by A/D Gallery, New York, 1993.
Gift of A/D Gallery. 1997-108-1

William Wegman’s 1993 “Alphabet” border is a charming representative of the vast body of children’s wallpaper that has been around since the 19th century.

Wegman began photographing his Weimaraners in 1970, and his photographs became a favorite with adults and children alike. After all, what’s not to like about a beautiful dog holding a goofy pose?

The border elevates Wegman’s dogs from cute to educational by arranging them into letters of the alphabet from A to Z. It was available in white, blue and rust and each color was printed in a limited edition of 1,500, each signed and numbered by the artist.

The Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum contains children’s wallpapers dating back to the 1870s. While early children’s wallpaper was designed to be instructional, it didn’t capture the whimsy exuded by this border, for which Wegman also designed a complementary sidewall paper.

Wegman started out as a painter, receiving degrees from the Massachusetts College of Art, Boston and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. In 1970, he moved to southern California to teach at California State College, Long Beach. That’s when he purchased his Weimaraner, Man Ray, and began photographing him in unusual poses. This photography continued in 1986 with the addition of Fay Ray, another Weimaraner, and then with her offspring. Wegman has created numerous books for children and adults, and film and video for such companies as Saturday Night Live, Nickelodeon and Sesame Street.