This watercolor drawing is of a recognizable Audubon genre called "gift drawing" which the great naturalist made occasionally for friends and relatives during his travels. He often stayed with families while doing research on birds and animals in an area, and he is known to have given lovely drawings such as this to young ladies who must have marveled at his art with great delight. This bird is characterized by one of Audubon's outstanding talents for capturing motion, for the bird is obviously thrusting his body out from the branch to snare a spider. The well done feet clasp the stem of the flower with an immediacy that is characteristic of birds, and the long thrusting bill not only accentuates the action but also refines the name of the species that in Audubon's later publications was to be the "Long Billed Marsh Wren."
While this drawing is not signed, it is definitely of Audubon's style, and the handwriting of the title is his. This penciled title is typical of the way he did his field notes. On the original watercolor drawings for The Birds of America, the elephant folio sheets in the New York-Historical Society, these field notes were erased and numbers and nomenclature were substituted by the engravers. A researcher would find this kind of penciled handwriting on drawings and sketches that were not used for publication. Examples can be seen in the collection at Princeton University Library. Although not for publication, Audubon lavished the same love and care with this work as is evident from the beauty of the flower and the intensity of the bird. A possibility exists that this drawing was used for The Birds of America because a very similar beebalm and spider can be seen on plate 394 from that series. By no means is this Audubon's finest work for the area around the back is somewhat stiffened and the arrangement of dark stripes on the wings were later run in an opposite direction when the published work was issued. Still it was a work worthy of a friend from a grateful artist.
Provenance: This drawing was once in the possession of the family of James Curtis Booth (1810-1888) who is best known as the director of the U.S. Mint in Philadelphia starting in 1849. He was also a reknowned metalurgist who was very active in the Philadelphia scientific circle that thrived around The Academy of Natural Sciences and The American Philosophical Society. He knew Audubon personally and never joined the ranks of detractors such as George Ord and Titian R. Peale. On back of the sheet in pencil is written "Mr. James C. Booth, U.S. Mint."
This excellent piece of Americana is a splendid addition to the corpus of Audubon's known work. He was a hard worker and prolific producer. Indeed, a bargeman once left an entire portfolio of drawings on the muddy banks of the Ohio River, so the indefatigable naturalist worked harder to replace them and vowed to always carry his own portfolio thereafter. Numerous incidents are recorded in which the artist gave away or sold his drawings.
Exhibition: The Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia, May-October 1987. Brandywine River Museum, June-September 1990. $120,000
Albert Bierstadt. "The Rocky Mountains, Lander's Peak." New York: Edward Bierstadt, 1866. Steel engraving by James Smillie. 16 1/2 x 28. Excellent condition. Framed to museum standards. Denver.
The earliest art of the American west tended to focus on the Indians and their culture. After mid-century, this theme slowly gave way to more of a concern with landscape and genre subjects. Perhaps the most influential artist associated with this change was Albert Bierstadt (1830-1902). He was born in Germany, near Düsseldorf, grew up in the United States, and in his twenties studied at the Düsseldorf Academy in Germany. There he was deeply impressed by the tradition of heroic painting for which that school was famous. In 1858, soon after returning to America, Bierstadt paid his own way in order to accompany General F.W. Lander on an expedition to improve the wagon route from Fort Laramie to California. Bierstadt was tremendously impressed with the Rocky Mountains, which provided him with the subject matter for his most famous paintings. Bierstadt passed through the Rockies in the nascent days of the great American expansion west; the transcontinental railroad, the pony express, and most of the Indian wars lay in the future. Thus Bierstadt saw and absorbed an almost pristine frontier, for which the rocky peaks provided an emphatic exclamation.
After he returned east, Bierstadt straight away began to work on his western canvases, exhibiting his first Rocky Mountain painting in 1860 at the National Academy, where it was very well received. Thus encouraged, Bierstadt continued to produce large, dramatic mountain landscapes, which reached a peak with his large and sensational 1863 canvas, "The Rocky Mountains." This painting immediately received popular acclaim, establishing Bierstadt, in the minds of some of the public and critics, as the greatest American landscape artist of his day. This painting traveled widely and was purchased by James McHenry for the then fantastic sum of $25,000. Following this, Bierstadt received many commissions for new works, was acclaimed at home and abroad, and hobnobbed with the rich and royal. His canvases continued to dramatically portray the awe-inspiring grandeur of the Rockies. His were "the first paintings to capture successfully the wonder and excitement that the artist and other early trail blazers felt when they confronted the spectacular western scenery." (Trenton & Hassrick, The Rocky Mountains, Oklahoma, 1983) The success of "The Rocky Mountain" painting spurred Bierstadt to ask James Smillie, one of the best American engravers, to make an engraving of the image. Smillie took three years to produce this magnificent print. $7,400
Thomas Faed. (1826-1900) "The Little Wanderer." Chicago: Crosby Opera House Art Association, 1866. 16 1/4 x 23 3/4. Steel engraving by Christian Rost. Printed by W. Pate, N.Y. Some chips at extreme edges of margins; tide mark at bottom margin, into publication line, but still legible. Else excellent condition.
This fine engraving was made by Rost after Faed's painting, "The Mitherless Bairn," which was first exhibited at the Royal Academy in London, in 1855, where it achieved a notable popularity. The painting shows an idealized incident from Faed's early years: a small child pretending to be orphaned, has imposed on the family. In spite of having been treated and fed well while in their care, his behavior devolves, and it becomes known that he is no orphan, but in fact the child of two well known tramps.
Thomas Faed, born in Scotland, was one of five siblings who became accomplished artists. Credited for popularizing Scottish art to a degree similar to the way Robert Burns' works did for Scottish song, Faed painted for most of his life, to great acclaim.
This print was one of two premium options for single shareholders of the Crosby Opera House Art Association, an elaborate lottery to pay off the cost overruns caused by war shortages. Uranus H. Crosby built his famous Italianate Opera House on Washington Street, between State & Dearborn in Chicago. While the lottery was a great success, the structure was destroyed in the Great Chicago Fire in 1871. $450
George Caleb Bingham. "Stump Speaking." New York: Fischel, Adler & Schwartz, 1856. 22 x 30. Engraving by Gautier. With a dedication to the "Friends of American Art, by the Publishers." Wide margins with some surface wear from old matting. One word in dedication worn. Professionally conserved. Image and overall condition is very good. Ref.: McDermott, p. 437, #9.
George Caleb Bingham is one of the greatest American genre painters of the middle of the nineteenth century. In his large canvases he showed daily life from American heartland. A number of these were made into prints, of which this is one of the most desirable and rare. The image is an icon of American art and politics. A group of voters (all men, the only enfranchised citizens at the time) gather beneath an oak tree on a Missouri farm to listen to the candidates present their positions and qualifications. The speaker leans forward for emphasis, while an imposing, opposing candidate sits behind listening and another makes notes on a pad. This latter individual is thought to be Bingham himself, who was involved in politics for a number of years. Though based on actual events witnessed by Bingham, the scene is general and iconographic. The mix of ages and social classes thoughtfully considering the candidates is an ideal image of American democracy. $6,200
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. Brilliant 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
John J. Barralet. "America Guided by Wisdom: An Allegorical representation of the United States, denoting their Independence and Prosperity." Philadelphia, ca. 1815. First state, previous to Stauffer, 3115. Engraving by Benjamin Tanner. 15 1/8 x 22 3/8. Good impression. Trimmed to platemark as usual. Very good condition. Fowble, 324.
The War of 1812 has often been called the "Second War of Independence," especially at the time. Following a series of naval victories and battles at Baltimore and New Orleans, Americans were infused with a new optimism based on a peace treaty that arranged for them to be left alone to develop their new country. This print uses symbols of republican virtues to express pride in the new country. Six lines of descriptive text explain that the focus is on Minerva, Goddess of Wisdom, who points to an escutcheon of the United States with the motto "Union and Independence," emblazoned on a shield held by America. Thrown down at their feet and behind them is a spear and shield with the visage of Medusa. To the right of this vignette is an equestrian statue of Washington at the entrance of a grand temple. To the left the god Mercury, representing commerce, points to proudly sailing ships to indicate his approval to the goddess Ceres, who holds wheat (a symbol of agriculture), while to her back are symbols of American industry: spinning, beekeeping, and plowing. This is a rich allegory to describe America.
We date this print at 1815 because that year marked the end of the War of 1812, and the message is appropriate for that time. Also, in that year Benjamin Tanner (1775-1848) entered a partnership with Vallance, Kearney & Company whose names are added to a later state of this print as described by David M. Stauffer. So the imprint, as well as the wonderfully strong lines, suggests that this printing is a first state. This print is after a drawing by John James Barralet (ca. 1747-1815), an Irish artist who came to Philadelphia about 1795. He had established a reputation as a landscape and historical artist in Dublin and London. When Barralet first arrived in Philadelphia he was hired as an engraver by Alexander Lawson and soon took up painting landscapes in and around Philadelphia. Among American engravers, Barralet is credited with inventing a ruling machine for work on bank notes. $3,200
"Cripple Creek. 1896." Phillips & Desjardins, 1896. 27 x 36 1/2. Chromolithograph by Western Litho. Company. Excellent condition. Framed. Reps: 478. Denver.
A spectacular bird's-eye-view of the Colorado mining towns of Cripple Creek and its sister town, Victor. This was the site of the last major Colorado gold rush, when in October 1890, a local rancher, Bob Womack, discovered a rich vein of ore. Thousands of hopeful prospectors flooded the area, including W.S. Stratton who discovered the Independence lode, one of the largest gold discoveries ever. The population boomed from a pre-rush population of under 500 to about 10,000 by 1893 and 19,000 at the time this print was produced.
On April 25th, 1896, Cripple Creek suffered a major fire and then just four days later a second fire, in which the entire business district and a total of 27 blocks, was destroyed. There was money aplenty available, however, so within a short time the city was built from brick, as this print, produced that same year, clearly demonstrates. This is a wonderful example of the pride of the inhabitants, who enthusiasm for the community and desire to boost its prospects inspired the publication of this print.
This image shows not just Cripple Creek, laid out in the rolling foothills below Pikes Peak, but the nearby town of Victor and twenty over vignette images showing local mines, including Stratton's Independence mine. A short description of Cripple Creek and Victor is included in the lower left corner and a listing of the production of the area mines in the lower left. $6,500
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