The Philadelphia Print Shop

Chromolithography: The Art of Color

[ Exhibit index ]


Narragansett Bay
"Narragansett Bay." Boston: J.H. Bufford, ca. 1870. Chromolithograph. 5 1/4 x 6 3/4 image on 8 3/4 x 10 7/8 decorative backing sheet. Backing sheet somewhat brittle and with some stains and other blemishes. Image, very good.

In the second part of the nineteenth century, a number of publishers, led by Louis Prang, issued chromolithographed prints which were intended to duplicate the appearance of oil paintings. This allowed middle class Americans to be able to hang sophisticated looking art on their homes at affordable prices. This is such a print, issued by John H. Bufford from Boston. It shows sailing ships at night in Narragansett Bay. It is mounted on a backing sheet with decorative border, indicating that this lovely image was clearly intended for framing and display. $165

Lake Chocorhua
"Lake Chocorhua & White Mts." Ca. 1870. Chromolithograph on canvas. Original frame. Very good condition.

An anonymous chromolithograph of Lake Chocorhua and the White Mountains, probably produced in New England. Similar to a Prang print, the leaves are shown in their autumn splendor and this is a charming scene. $375

"Autumn on the Kennebec, Maine." Ca. 1870. Chromolithograph. 8 1/2 x 13 1/4. Mounted on board as issued. In period frame.

An attractive autumnal scene of Kennebec, Maine. This is a nice example of the chromolithographs issued in the second part of the nineteenth century. This print is unattributed, but it is of a typical quality of the better publishers of the second half of the nineteenth century. A lovely print that is a fine exemplar of the period. $325

Strobridge: Otterbein University
"Otterbein University, Westerville, Ohio. R. T. Brookes, Architect." 14 x 20 (image). Published ca. 1872. Chromolithograph by Strobridge & Co. Left and right hand margins trimmed just into the image. Expertly repaired tear in bottom margin that extends 1/8 of an inch into the image. Otherwise, fine condition and color.

Originally founded in 1847 by the Church of the United Brethren in Christ, Otterbein University was named after Reverend Phillip Otterbein who was founder of the religious group in the late 18th century. The university is the second oldest coeducational school in the United States and is not far from Columbus, Ohio. The four year liberal arts college is well known for it theatrical arts program. The building depicted in the print is an excellent example of Victorian Gothic architecture. Known today as Towers Hall it was built in 1871 following a fire that consumed the previous building. In 1982, Towers Hall was restored and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

This print was produced in Cincinnati by Strobridge & Company who can trace its roots to 1849, to the founding of Elijah Middleton's print publishing enterprise. Middleton began producing lithographs in the 1850s, shortly before Hines Strobridge joined the firm in 1855. Strobridge achieved partnership in 1859, and took over the company completely in 1861. Producing battle prints for national sale, the firm thrived during the Civil War. Suffering a devastating fire in 1865, the company rebounded by making its printing processes even more efficient for high-volume commercial production. Most well-known for their theatrical and circus posters, they also participated in printing and selling the sort of stock print that sustained many printing businesses. This print is a fine historical document and a colorful decorative image. $975

Across the Rocky Mountains
"Across the Rocky Mountains." Cincinnati: William M. Donaldson & Co., 1879. 22 1/2 x 29 1/2. Chromolithograph. Margins trimmed to image as originally issued. Very good condition. In period frame.

A majestic Western scene, produced in chromolithography by the Donaldson company in Cincinnati. This firm specialized in circus posters, but also produced fine chromolithographs for framing and display, such as this dramatic print. The Rocky Mountains are shown towering over a forested valley. Snow, clouds and mist hug the mountain peaks. In the foreground are some Indians pointing as the train bursts thru the tunnel opening. Much of the West was still unknown at this time. The whole scene is a wonderful representation of Manifest Destiny. Man's ability to over come any topographical obstacle and his inevitable quest to conquer the West. Overall a very atmospheric and dramatic image of the Rocky Mountains. $2,600

Thomas Moran. "Grand Canyon of Arizona From Hermit Rim Road." Chicago: Atchison Topeka & Santa Fe Railway System, 1913. 26 1/2 x 35 1/4. Chromolithograph by American Lithographic Co. Mounted to board as issued. In period gold frame. With some fading and discoloration from varnish. Overall, very good condition and good appearance. Ref: Joni Louise Kinsey. Thomas Moran and the Surveying of the American West, 1992.

A spectacular American chromolithograph of Thomas Moran's famous image of the Grand Canyon from the Hermit Rim. Moran is one of America's best painters of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, and he is particularly known for his luminous paintings of the American west. Moran was born in England in 1837 and immigrated to the U.S. with his family in 1844. Moran trained in England and Europe, but his best work is rooted in the natural wonders of his adopted country.

Moran accompanied the 1871 Ferdinand V. Hayden expedition to the Yellowstone, and upon his return he produced a superb group of watercolors which Boston publisher Louis Prang turned into 15 chromolithographs which he issued in a portfolio limited to 1,000 copies. The success of these marvelous prints inspired Moran to head west again two years later. In 1873 he joined John Wesley Powell, who had navigated the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon in 1869, on another expedition to the Grand Canyon. This trip resulted in a painting taken from the Kaibab Plateau on the north rim, which in turn was turned into this stunning chromolithograph.

The promotion of the Grand Canyon was pursued by corporations that stood to profit from their association. The Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway looked to art as one of many ways to increase the number of passengers on its railways. For many years the company was the only direct route to the Grand Canyon. Along with Moran, the company also financed other artists to visit the area to paint. In this way the Company acquired a large collection of original art to decorate stations, offices and hotels. Some of the paintings were reproduced on letterheads, ink blotters and chromolithographs, which were distributed to passengers as souvenirs or printed as public advertisements. Moran's original painting is still in the possession of the company. However, the Santa Fe did not acquire the painting directly from Moran, but purchased it from the American Lithographic Co., who had bought it from Moran's Chicago dealer. For the sum of $4,000 the railroad received the oil and reproduction rights along with 2,500 chromolithographs that the Passenger Department distributed. This grand image was also reproduced in the company's annual calendars for many years. The American Lithographic Co. also produced an earlier and equally excellent chromolithograph in 1892 of a different Moran view of the Grand Canyon. $2,800

James M. Hart. "Scene near Farmington, Ct. Autumn." Boston: L. Prang & Co., 1871. Chromolithograph. 9 x 16. Mounted on board with original label. Slight blemish in sky. Otherwise, very good condition. In period frame.

Louis Prang was the most successful American publisher of chromolithographs partly because he had a good sense of what the general public liked. One of the most popular subjects for art was views of American scenes, and this charming image of the landscape near Farmington, Connecticut is a fine example of such a view by Prang. Taken from a painting by James M. Hart, and it is a fine scene of New England in the autumn. $475

Saco River
"On the Saco River, New Hampshire. Ca. 1870-80. Chromolithograph. 9 x 13 1/4. Mounted on board as issued. Very good condition. In period frame.

Chromolithography was developed by publishers in the later part of the nineteenth century as a medium to produce inexpensive prints that filled the demand for attractive images to hang in homes of those that could not afford original paintings. One of the more popular subject matters for these prints was American views. This charming image shows the Saco River in New Hampshire. $275

Attributed to Guido Hampe (German School). [Scene in Europe] Cincinnati: William M. Donaldson, circa. 1873-85. Chromolithograph. 21 1/2 x 29 1/2. In period frame 26 x 34. Repaired tears in upper right sky and on hills to right; inpainted. Ref.: Marzio, Democratic Art, 179 and Last, Color Explosion, 68-69.

An example of a large American chromolithograph by the famed Donaldson Lithographing Company. Peter Marzio, discussing oleographs as a "German variety of chromo that was printed in dark, thick inks and heavily coated with varnish" describes this view as possibly one of twenty-six based on works by German artists that Donaldson advertised "in about 1880." The printing method would appeal to German-Americans in the Ohio and Mississippi valleys, and the subject matter of European landscapes by the prolific and popular Hampe (1839-1903) fits his work. Hampe's oils all are landscapes of European, especially German and Swiss, landscapes. That the credit at lower left is to "W. M. Donaldson" is indicative that he was on his own after his first partner Henry Elmes died in 1872. A lovely example of art for the immigrant. $250


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