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The former way to change wallpaper in Gnome2 consists in use gconftool-2, but this tool has no effect in Gnome3.

gconftool-2 --type=string --set /desktop/gnome/background/picture_filename /home/user/background.jpg
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up vote 11 down vote accepted

Gnome3 uses dconf instead of gconf to background and wallpaper issues. The tool to modify dconf is gsettings and it can be done by the following way:

gsettings set org.gnome.desktop.background picture-uri "file:///home/user/background.jpg"
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