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In the 1850's the houses of the United States Congress were in a stalemate over many differences between the North and the South. One pressing issue was that of a transcontinental railroad, for there was a crying need for fast and reliable transportation to the burgeoning west. In Congress there was a strong rivalry between a faction which wanted a northern route and one, spearheaded by Jefferson Davis, which wanted a southern route. In 1853 Congress appropriated $150,000 for a survey of the possible routes for a transcontinental railroad to the Pacific. Expeditions were sent out with instructions to not only survey but also to make a full report on the general nature of the country, including flora and fauna, geology, climate, etc.. The reports from these exhibitions were issued in a series of twelve volumes between 1855 and 1861. "These volumes...constitute probably the most important single contemporary source of knowledge on Western geography and history and their value is greatly enhanced by the inclusion of many beautiful plates in color of scenery, native inhabitants, fauna and flora of the Western country." (Robert Taft, Artists and Illustrators of the Old West, p. 5) The illustrations provide some of the first views of the regions surveyed. They were drawn by such artists as Richard H. Kern, John Mix Stanley, H.B. Millhausen, and others. They represent first-hand views of an area little known at the time, so they were viewed then, as today, with an avid interest. This view of an infant San Diego, by Charles Koppel, was from the report concerning Robert S. Williamson's survey in California. The quality and detail, as well as historic interest, are top rate. $250
C.C. Kuchel. "View of San Francisco. 1857." [Taken from a high point on the south side]. New York: Henry Bill, 1857. Copyrighted in Connecticut. Second state due to date. From The History of the World. 8 x 16 (image) plus generous margins. Tinted lithograph originally by P.S. Duval. Folded as issued. Very good condition.
A wonderful panoramic view of San Francisco near the beginning of the Gold Rush, "Published by the Author of 'Sights in the Gold Region &c.'" This first-hand print was drawn by C.C. Kuchel (1820-ca. 1865). Kuchel was born in Switzerland and emigrated to America in the 1840s. He moved to San Francisco about the time he drew this image, later forming a lithography firm with Emil Dresel. The scene shows Yerba Buena harbor from Rincon Point, looking towards Telegraph Hill. The town is spread out mostly in the valley, and the harbor is shown bustling with ships mostly involved in the traffic related to the Gold Rush which started just the year before this print was originally issued in 1850 in Henry Bill's History of the World. $900
Thomas Hill. "Yosemite Valley." Boston: L. Prang, 1869. 15 1/2 x 25 1/2. Chromolithograph. Margins trimmed to image and mounted onto original canvas and stretcher as issued. Some light creases and touch-up in sky and middle distance, but still very attractive with vibrant color. In original period frame. Framed size is 23 x 33. Very rare. Denver.
Thomas Hill was born in Birmingham England and moved with his family to Taunton, Massachusetts in 1844. Hill studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts under Peter F. Rothermel. Hill began his painting career as a New England artist along with a group of others artists/friends that included Asher B Durand, George Inness Benjamin Champney, Albert Bierstadt and others. Hill moved to California in 1861 for health reasons and painted Yosemite for the first time in 1862. From 1868 to 1870 Hill resided in Boston and exhibited his monumental painting of the Yosemite Valley. The painting was exhibited in Philadelphia at the Centennial Exhibition and was considered one of the best on display. The painting sold for a princely sum of $5000. Louis Prang, a color printer in Boston was so impressed with this painting that he ordered a small painted copy which Hill himself produced from which the chromolithograph was then made. The print was so well received by the public that Hills work became famous afterward. Hill returned to Yosemite to live and paint until his death in 1908.
Louis Prang was the most successful American publisher of chromolithographs. Born in Germany, Prang learned to print in color from his father, who was a calico printer. He immigrated to the United States in 1850 for political reasons. After a short-lived partnership as a chromolithographic printmaker with Julius Mayer (Prang & Mayer), Prang set up his own firm of L. Prang & Co. in 1860. His initial success came from his many small prints collected by members of the public and kept in albums. By the 1860s, Prang stated to issue color-printed copies of famous paintings and launched his magazine, Prang's Chromo: A Journal of Popular Art. Prang's prints based on oils and watercolors were highly praised by the press and many influential persons, and these art prints became hugely successful. Eventually Prang issued about 800 chromolithographs of this sort, which he advertised as: "PRANG'S AMERICAN CHROMOS. 'THE DEMOCRACY OF ART' . . . Our Chromo Prints are absolute FACSIMILES of the originals, in color, drawing, and spirit" Prang used the paintings of many of America's leading artists to produce his prints, including those by A.F. Tait, Eastman Johnson, Thomas Moran, F.S. Church, and Albert Bierstadt. This print after the Thomas Hill painting is a superior example of the quality that chromolithography could achieve. $4,800
"On The Coast Of California." New York: Currier & Ives, 1857-72. Small folio; 8 1/x x 12 3/8. Lithograph with original hand color. Very good condition. C:4598..Denver.
"America's printmakers," the New York firm of Currier & Ives, would issue prints of whatever subject they thought there would be a market for. With the opening of the transcontinental railroad in 1869, people from the east coast began to travel to the west coast, and vice versa, so interest in California became quite strong. This, naturally, led to a good number of prints by Currier & Ives on the subject, including this fanciful image of the California coast. $950
Benjamin Champney. "Yosemite Valley." Boston: Dodge, Collier & Perkins, 1872. Chromolithograph. 24 1/4 x 15 1/4. Margins trimmed to image and mounted onto original canvas and stretcher as issued. A few small cracks and old small tear. Otherwise, very good condition. In original period frame. Denver.
An unusual and apparently unrecorded view of Yosemite Valley by Benjamin Champney. Champney is usually synonymous with White Mountain paintings of the 19th century. Most art historians consider him the founder of the White Mountain School of painters who came to North Conway and the surrounding area during the second half of the 19th century. Born in New Ipswich, NH on November 17, 1817, Champney began his training as a lithographer under Pendleton in Boston. He visited the Conway area for the first time in 1838. Champney also studied with Robert Cooke, with whom he went to Paris in 1841, on the advice of Washington Allston. Champney returned to Boston in 1846 and then traveled back to Europe almost at once to paint a panorama of the Rhine River. Once again in Boston in 1848, he exhibited the panorama there and in New York City where the panorama was subsequently destroyed by fire in 1853. In 1850 Champney visited the White Mountains again with his friend John F. Kensett; their enthusiasm and paintings drew large numbers of Boston and New York artists to the Conway area. Champney's studio was a noted resort and was visited by many people from all parts of the country. In 1853 Champney married and bought a house between Conway and North Conway, making this his summer home for over fifty years. In 1854 he again returned to Europe on a painting trip to Germany and Switzerland with Kensett.
At some point is seems that Champney ventured to the west, visiting Yosemite. This was likely to visit an old friend, Thomas Hill, who had moved from the east and established a successful career making paintings of Yosemite. This picture is a classic western scene, with no evidence of Anglo infiltration, for the scene shows the valley with a Native American village and figures on horseback or in a canoe. Champney's paintings paintings were often used to make chromolithographs that were subsequently sold to tourists who could not afford Champney's originals. Mostly the prints illustrated the White Mountains and many were published by Louis Prang, the leading chromolithographic printmaker of the nineteenth century. Champney's canvas, "Lake Chocorua and Mountain," was made into a chromolithograph by Dodge, Collier & Perkins. Little is known about the company other than that they sold frames, put their name on some stereoviews, and produced at least two chromolithographs after Champney. This is the second and it is not only previously unknown, but its lovely tones and charming composition show that Champney's art translated nicely from the east coast. $3,200
Yosemite Valley. Washington: D.S. Norris & Co, 1873. Chromolithograph by Charles H. Crosby & Co., Boston. 14 x 20. With small margins around (these would often have been removed in framing), and including alignment marks for the chromolithography. Slight chipping to margins. Overall, very good condition. Denver.
A lovely image of Yosemite Valley produced by the Charles Crosby's chromolithographic firm. Not as well-known as the more famous Boston firm of Louis Prang, Crosby had a similar business of producing chromolithographs intended to have the appearance of oil paintings so that the general public could hang "fine art" in their homes. Yosemite first came to the nation's consciousness in the 1850s and 60s, being set aside as park land in the Yosemite Grant of 1864, but with the completion of the transcontinental railroad in 1869, this became a prime destination for those in the east. Naturally, this created an interest in images of this magnificent natural wonder, which was met by Crosby with this fine chromolithograph. The view is, as it happens, very similar to the Thomas Hill chromolithograph of Yosemite published by Prang in 1869, and it is not unlikely that Crosby's staff artist essentially copied Hill's image with some minor modifications. One reference gives the artist as C. Clarke, but no further information has been found on that artist. Whatever its source, it was prints like this, which would have hung in many post-Civil War homes, which helped form the image many Americans had of Yosemite. $425
"by one of the first artists in America" "Yosemite Falls." New York: W.J. Demorest, 1872. Chromolithograph. 12 x 10. With original frame and advertising label. Conserved and refit with rag backing.
"A Magnificent Prize! Surpassing All Other Offers. Each Subscriber To Demorest's Monthly Magazine, at Three Dollars a year, will be presented with a premium of Two Elegant Chromos, companion pictures of the two most desirable and popular subjects in America-the Falls of Niagara and Yosemite Falls." So is described the offer from W. Jennings Demorest to his subscribers in 1872. The original chromolithographs ("the best pictures ever published for Ten Dollars, and are veritable gems, worthy of being enshrined in an honored place in our homes") were sent to each subscriber who paid the $3.08 shipping cost. Though probably sent out in the thousands, this and the companion print of Niagara Falls are very rare images. $575
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