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The Philadelphia Print Shop Americana

Prints by 18th & 19th Century
American Artists


Peale: Court of Death
Rembrandt Peale. "The Court of Death." New York: G. Q. Colton, [1859?]. 15 x 26 1/2. Chromolithograph by Sarony & Major. Very good condition. With descriptive key. Ref: Marzio, The Democratic Art, p. 51.

This print is after the painting by Rembrandt Peale (1778-1860). Born in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, he was the son of Charles Willson Peale. Rembrandt travelled to England and studied under Benjamin West from 1801 to 1803. A founder of the National Academy of Design, Peale is best known for his portrait of George Washington. Other important paintings of his are "Napoleon on Horseback," "The Roman Daughter," and portraits of Thomas Jefferson and Gilbert Stuart.

"The Court of Death," painted in 1820, was one of the most popular paintings of that decade. In the first year of its traveling exhibition, Peale earned over $8,000 in admissions, and it continued to be exhibited for half a century. The size of the canvas was a huge 11 feet by 23 feet, and was based upon a poem by the recently deceased Bishop of London, Beilby Porteus. Death is represented enthroned in a gloomy cave, his feet resting on the body of a man stricken in the prime of life. Surrounding him are his agents: War, Conflagration, Famine, Pestilence, Pleasure, Intemperance, Remorse, Delirium Tremens, Suicide, and an array of deadly diseases. Before the throne is Old Age who is supported by Faith. Members of the Peale family posed for most of the figures with the artist's daughter as the women and his famous father as "Old Age". Much was made in the time that the corpse was based on an actual cadaver from a medical school in Philadelphia. Two large prints were published by Colton but involved different processes. One was this chromolithograph printed by Sarony & Major, and the second was a wood engraving by Loomis and Annin. $1,400

Mount: The Power of Music
William Sydney Mount. "The Power of Music." New York: Goupil, Vibert & Co., 1848. 14 5/8 x 18 5/8. Lithograph by Leon Noel on chine appliqué. Original hand color. Expertly repaired tear just touching the image with some wear in margins on the left hand side. A few faint stains in the bottom margin with some wear along the bottom edge of print. Print has been professionally conserved. Otherwise, fine condition. Rare.

A wonderful image after a painting by William Sidney Mount. Mount (1807-1868) was the first important American genre painter. He spent most of his life on Long Island, and he recorded his observations of local daily life in a large number of charming portraits, landscapes and genre scenes. In the mid-nineteenth century, a number of the better American artists, such as Mount and George Caleb Bingham, were having images made of their paintings to be sold as separate prints. These prints were important for their support of the native painters and for the dissemination of 'fine art' to the general American public.

Mount who played the fiddle himself, believed in the healing power of music. A boy plays a tune on a fiddle in the company of two men. A black man leans against the barn door to listen. One can easily see the impact of the soothing music by viewing the men's faces.

Goupil, Vibert & Company was a very large print publisher and art firm in Paris and New York. It employed some of the best lithographic artists in the world. The lithographer of this print, Alphonse Leon Noel (1807-1884), was a painter and illustrator from Pairs. Noel was a student of Gros and Herson. Early in his career he gave up painting and devoted his time to lithography, with his first lithograph being issued in 1827. Noel continued as a lithographer until 1866. During his day he was a well know lithographic reproducer of paintings and portraits, especially the work of portrait painter Winterhalter. Noel's lithographs number more than 1,000 of which 600 are portraits. His work can be seen in the Cabinet d'Estampes, Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris.

The quality of this print, lithographed by one of the best craftsmen in Europe, is excellent, and is one of the finest examples of American genre art to be found. $5,500

Bingham: Martial Law
George Caleb Bingham. "Martial Law." or [Order Number 11]. Columbia and Kansas City, Missouri: George C. Bingham & Company, 1872. 21 1/2 x 30 3/4 (image) plus full margins and text. 27 x 37 o.d. Engraving and mezzotint by John Sartain. Designated "PROOF." Some age spotting. Excellent impression.

A number of George Caleb Bingham's genre pictures were made into prints. This composition is unusual because rather than being a general situation, such as a genre scene on a river raft or at an election, this is a strong polemical piece depicting a particular event during the Missouri-Kansas fighting before and during the Civil War.

The scene of murder, devastation and misery is explained by the subtitle on the print: "AS EXEMPLIFIED IN THE DESOLATION OF BORDER COUNTIES OF MISSOURI DURING THE ENFORCEMENT OF MILITARY ORDERS, ISSUED BY BRIGADIER GENERAL EWING, OF THE FEDERAL ARMY, FROM HIS HEAD QUARTERS, KANSAS CITY, AUGT 25TH 1863." Prior to this event in the 1860s a veritable war existed in western Missouri and Kansas between pro and anti slavery advocates. Due to some cruel raids and pitched battles as well as outright murders the officer in charge of the federal military district around Kansas City decided to clear the countryside of farming people. The result saw Union and Confederate sympathizers as well as partisans expelled from homes which were destroyed. Despite protests by Bingham and other powerful citizens the order was enforced. Many innocent people suffered horribly.

Bingham never forgave Ewing and hounded him on the matter for the rest of their lives. Between 1865 and 1867 Bingham worked on his painting with the plan to issue prints of the image. Not until 1872 was the plate readied by John Sartain in Philadelphia and published with financial backing by the Rollins family in Missouri. Distribution of the print even included circulating it in Ohio where Ewing was running for political office in later years. The likeness of Ewing in the picture shows him drawing a gun while women, old men and boys plead for mercy. The Negro man and boy in the foreground exemplify how the innocent were victimized. Burning farms are seen across the far horizon. Art historians claim that this is not the artist's best work, but it is the most powerful image of the border war in the 1860s by a participant. $5,000

Voyage of Youth
Thomas Cole. "Voyage of Life-Youth." New York: American Art Union, 1850. 15 1/2 x 22 3/4 (image). Engraving by John Smillie. Wide margins with light soiling in margins. Excellent impression. Overall, very good condition. Ref: Thomas Cole. One Hundred Years Later. A Loan Exhibition. Boston and New York: Wadsworth Athenæum and Whitney Museum of American Art, 1949. Matthew Baigell, Thomas Cole. New York, 1981.

Thomas Cole (1801-1848) is known as the founder of the Hudson River School of landscape painting and produced primarily realistic and imaginary landscapes. Samuel Ward commissioned Cole to paint a set of four allegorical paintings in 1839. These four prints, engraved after Cole's paintings, depict the stages of life from birth to death. Cole's inspiration may have come from a sermon by Reverend Reginald Heaver referring to "life [which] bears on us like the stream of a mighty river."

In 1849, Smillie engraved "Youth" for the American Art Union (1839-1851), an organization created to support and develop popular appreciation of American art by issuing prints engraved after paintings which the organization owned. The favorable reception of this print led Smillie to engrave the three other voyages and issue the four print set in 1855. This image shows the man just beginning to depart from his guardian angel, before he begins to deal with the difficult currents of manhood through appeal to God. $1,200

Leutze: Angel's Whisper
Emanuel Leutze. "The Angel's Whisper." Philadelphia: Bradley & Co; Rochester R. H. Curran, 1858. 16 x 12. Mezzotint by John Sartain. Minor tear in bottom margin expertly repaired. Otherwise, very good condition.

This print is after a painting by Emanuel Leutze. Born in Germany in 1816, Leutze is known mainly as an historical and portrait painter. He and his family emigrated to the United States and settled in Philadelphia, where he studied painting under John Rubens Smith. In 1840 Leutze traveled back to Germany to study under Lessing. He lived in Germany for twenty years before returning to America in 1859 to paint "Westward the Course of the Empire," an allegorical-historical mural for the House of Representatives in Washington, D.C. Leutze here shows a mastery of the more intimate, tender moments of human experience. In his engraved interpretation, Sartain beautifully captures the range of tone that makes the composition so successful.

Below the image, an excerpt for the Irish poet Samuel Lover's ballad, "The Angel's Whisper," lends a title to the print and enhances its tender effect. Celebrating both virtuosity of motherhood and the saintliness of children, this print is a beautiful example of Victorian sensibility and sentiment. $325

Hearts of the Andes
Frederic Edwin Church. "The hearts [sic] of the Andes." Berlin: F. Sala & Co., ca. 1858. Tinted lithograph with hand highlights. 15 1/2 x 21 3/4. Very good condition.

Frederic Edwin Church (1826-1900) is one of the most influential landscape artists of the nineteenth century. A pupil of Thomas Cole, he was a key figure in the Hudson River School of American artists. In the 1850s, inspired by Alexander von Humboldt, Church went to South America and made sketches for what would become his most impressive painting, "The Heart of the Andes," completed in 1858. Church's large canvas (6 x 10 feet) was a huge success with the public and attracted more than twelve thousand viewers when it was exhibited in New York in 1859. Though this print, produced in Germany, cannot convey the impact of the huge original, it still beautifully captures Church's grand concept and the careful detail set in an awe-inspiring landscape. $1,200

John George Brown. Pair of "Snedecor's Chromos": "Hope" and "Purity." New York: J. Snedecor, 1870. Chromolithographs by H. Bencke. 21 1/2 x 14 3/8. Mounted on canvas and on original stretchers. In original frames. Some wear to frames, especially to velvet panels. "Purity" with tear in sky. As found.

An unrecorded pair of prints by the famous American genre artist John George Brown (1831-1913). Born in Durham, England, on the 11th of November 1831, Brown studied at Newcastle-on-Type, in the Edinburgh Academy, and after moving to New York City in 1853, at the schools of the National Academy of Design. In 1866 he became one- of the charter members of, the Water-Color Society, of which he was president from 1887 to 1904. He is best known for his images of children, though usually street urchins rather than the beatific young ladies depicted here.

The 50 years following the Civil War have been called the period of "chromo civilization" in America. Millions of chromolithographs were made and they became the customary decoration in most homes throughout the country; they were what Peter Marzio calls "the core of American life." One of the great appeals of chromolithography was that it allowed for the inexpensive production of thousands of colored prints, bringing bright and attractive images within the reach of the masses. But chromolithography was much more than this. Through chromolithography, historical events were graphically depicted, American views were spread far and wide, and all aspects of American life were vividly documented. At the same time, many artists used the process to create prints that very closely followed their artistic vision, and many chromolithographs, which were produced using heavy oil-based inks, closely duplicated the appearance of actual oil paintings.

Here we have a pair of prints designed to provide morally uplifting images for the home, with figures representing the virtues of hope and purity. Catherine E. Beecher & Harriet Beecher Stowe, in The American Women's Home (1869), said this about the role of such prints, "The educating influence of these works of art can hardly be overestimated. Surrounded by such suggestions of the beautiful, and such reminders of history and art, children are constantly trained to correctness of taste and refinement of thought, and stimulated-sometimes to efforts at artistic imitation, always to the eager and intelligent inquiry about the scenes, the places, the incidents represented." We have been unable to find any record of J. Snedecor nor his "Chromos," so this may have been a failed attempt to break into the market for top end chromolithographs that had been pioneered by Prang. Despite this apparent lack of success for these prints, their quality is very fine and the artist an important one, making them wonderful example of Victorian American prints for the home. For the pair, $1,200

Other prints by J.G. Brown

Uncle Ned and I
Thomas Waterman Wood. "Uncle Ned and I." New York: C. Klackner, 1882. Engraving by J.A.J. Wilcox. 24 3/4 x 16 3/4. Wide margins. Some old surface abrasions, mostly in the margins; expertly conserved. Otherwise, very good condition and fine appearance.

Noted for his sympathetic images of African-Americans, American painter Thomas Waterman Wood earned the Water Color Society of New York's prize with his painting "Uncle Ned and I." Born in abolitionist New England, Wood came of age as a portrait painter in antebellum Boston, where he studied with Chester Harding. His later travels took him around the country and the world before he settled in Montpelier and New York, focusing on American genre subjects. About one quarter of his paintings focused on African-American subjects, who he portrayed with remarkable sympathy for the period. Though "Uncle Ned" echoes the titles "Uncle" and "Aunt" given to enslaved Africans (and held over in post-bellum years), the subject here appears in much the same garb and stance as Wood's Caucasian farm worker subjects. The sentimental dignity afforded to both man and child here reflects the Victorians' obsession with the virtue of childhood. Rather than presenting an African-American man as a comical or political symbol, Wood portrays him here as a man, in much the same position and light as a Caucasian man of similar age and occupation. $850

Lake George
Andrew W. Melrose. "Lake George." [Sabbath Day Point/Roger's Slide]. Washington: A. Melrose, ca. 1885. 21 1/2 x 35 1/2. Chromolithograph by Raphael Tuck and Sons. Margins trimmed to image as issued. Vibrant colors. Very good to excellent condition.

Andrew Melrose (1836-1901) was an artist of American landscapes. He had studios in Hoboken and Guttenburg, New Jersey during the 1870s and 1880s. He is particularly known for his paintings of views from North Carolina to New England, though he also produced images of Ireland, the Tyrols and Cornwall, England. This lovely and colorful Adirondack scene shows the area of Sabbath Day Point, near the present day town of Hague, New York. The view is looking north. In the background, on the left is Roger's Slide. In foreground, is a cabin with people unloading provisions on the shore. In the middle distance a flat bottom boat is ferrying people to another location on the lake. Melrose published a number of large chromolithographs after his paintings. Many artists tried selling these large and colorful prints to make extra money and to help establish their reputations. This is an excellent example of nineteenth century chromolithography used to reproduce American paintings. $2,400
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