The Philadelphia Print Shop

Chromolithography: The Art of Color

[ Exhibit index ]


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

Thompson: Hiawatha's Wooing
Jerome Thompson. "Hiawatha's Wooing." New York: Demorest's Monthly Magazine, 1870. 15 x 24. Chromolithograph by J. Gurney. In period black and gilt frame. With 5" scrape in surface, visible at some angles. Otherwise, very good. With original advertising flyer, including excerpt from Longfellow's "Song of Hiawatha."

This print was issued as a promotion for Demorest's Monthly Magazine. According to the N.Y. Evening Mail (as quoted on the advertising flyer), "The Chromo is such a correct copy of the picture painted for its reproduction, that, when they are placed side by side, the best judges, even artists, are often mistaken as to which is the original." This "magnificent Chromo" was offered for $15 or as a bonus with subscriptions to the magazine. $1,800

Other prints by J.G. Brown

After Correggio. "Correggio's Magdalena." Boston: L. Prang & Co., 1867. 12 3/4 x 16 1/2. Chromolithograph. Mounted on board and with original label as issued. In elaborate period frame. Very good condition.

This lovely image was aimed at those who desired the sophistication of European oils but could not afford to purchase the real thing. Though affordable compared to paintings, this print was still one of the most expensive Prang issued, selling for $10. Even for the price, consumers felt this was a worthy buy - as the art journal The Aldine noted in 1869, "For ten dollars the working man may glorify his house with one of Correggio's masterpieces." A nice example of Prang's most beloved type of print. $950

Louis Prang, Barefoot Boy
Eastman Johnson. "The Barefoot Boy." Boston: L. Prang & Co., 1867-69. 12 3/4 x 9 3/4. Chromolithograph. In classic period frame.

Johnson's "The Barefoot Boy" is one of the most famous of all Prang's chromos, advertised by Prang as the personification of the American character: the boy "in homespun clothing, barefooted," symbolizing "that self-reliant aspect which characterizes the rural and backwoods children." Based by Eastman Johnson on John Greenleaf Whittier's poem, "The Barefoot Boy," the print was praised in magazines and books as the paradigm of the quality chromolithographs could display, and Prang claimed that it was "the most popular of all our publications." It took three months to make the twenty-six stones used to make this print and another five months to print the first run. For promotion, Prang provided free copies to the poet and painter and then quoted their replies in his advertisements. Whittier wrote, "It is a charming illustration of my little poem, and in every way satisfactory as a work of art"; and Johnson claimed that, "It strikes me as being one of the best chromolithographs I have ever seen." This print is not only a classic American genre image, but it is a wonderful example of the quality of prints published by the greatest of American chromolithograph publishers. $600

George Lambdin, Wild Fruit
George C. Lambdin, "Wild Fruit." Boston: L. Prang & Co., 1867-69. 12 3/4 x 9 3/4. Chromolithograph. Mounted on boards with original label. In elaborate period frame.

Prang was inspired by the popularity of Eastman Johnson's "The Barefoot Boy" to commission a companion image from George C. Lambdin. Lambdin was an artist from Germantown, PA, who later moved to New York City where he was elected an Academician at the National Academy. Lambdin painted genre and military scenes, but later in his life he devoted his time to paintings of flowers. This Lambdin painting shows a shy little girl, barefoot, leaning on a tree and holding a hand-full of grapes. This image, entitled "Wild Fruit," was published as a companion chromolithograph by Prang two years after Johnson's "Barefoot Boy." Each print beautifully express the ideal image of American youth - innocent and unspoiled - that was prevalent after the Civil War. With its deep color and rich texture, this print is also an excellent example of the work of one of the greatest American publishers of chromolithographs. $375

Thompson: Prairie Flowers
Jerome Thompson. "Prairie Flowers." From Prang's chromos done in Boston in the late nineteenth century. 19 3/4 x 15 3/4. Chromolithograph. Period frame.

This celebration of the American West shows two small children who are like the flowers and grasses of the American prairie: beautiful elements of the new and prosperous land. Featuring water in a bountiful landscape the young girl leads the way for her larger, idealized companion who will provide a meal with his fishing rod. The dense vegetation hints at a valley of Eden in the American West. $350

Hurrah for the snow
"Hurrah for the snow." Portland: H. Hallett & Co., 1879. 13 x 19. Chromolithograph. A few minor surface blemishes. Framed.

A charming genre scene by Portland, Maine published H. Hallett & Co. A young man probably on his way to school (note the chalk board hanging from his pouch) is delighted by the snow, preparing to launch a snow ball. $275

Mother and children
[Mother with children at bedtime.] Boston: J.H. Bufford, 1872. Subscriber print for The Christian At Work. Chromolithograph. 14 1/4 x 11. Mounted on board as issued. In fine period frame.

This image, of a mother with her two daughters, was issued as a bonus print for the subscribers of The Christian at Work. It is a fine example of chromolithography and of American genre art. $425

Friend in Need
Felix Schlesinger. "A Friend In Need." Boston: L. Prang & Co., 1867. 16 1/2 x 13. Chromolithograph. Mounted on board with original label. Very good condition. Framed.

This print reflects Prang's own response to the success of "The Barefoot Boy." Based on a painting by a German artist, the European dress and setting would have appealed to the huge potential market of European immigrants, who might not respond to the American paradigm of Johnson's image. $425

Little Students
"Little Students." Boston: D. Lothrop & Co., 1872. Chromolithograph by Hencke & Scott. 13 x 16 1/4. Mounted on board, as issued. With original label and in period frame. Very good condition.

A charming example of a American post-Civil War chromolithograph. These prints, popularized by Louis Prang, were intended to allow middle class families to own art work that had the appearance of original paintings, but without the same cost. This print was issued by Daniel Lothrop, who in 1868 began to publish children's books, adding a children's magazine, Wide Awake, in 1875. This particular image is some sort of promotion for his books, which are clearly shown being read and sitting on the floor and table, each elaborate binding and title clearly depicted. An most unusual aspect of the print is the cover of the book in the bottom right has a promissory note for $1,000, referring to "The Thousand Dollar Prize Series." It is possible that this print was intended to be hung in book stores, or perhaps was given out to subscribers, but whatever its history, it is a charming example of American chromolithography. $425


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