The Philadelphia Print Shop

Chromolithography: The Art of Color

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Stanley: Trial of Red Jacket
John Mix Stanley. [The Trial Of Red Jacket.] Signed in image, "J. M. Stanley 1869." Berlin: Storch & Kramer, 1871. Chromolithograph. 23 x 35 (sight). Print was laid on a board which is stable. Some old rubs repaired and inpainted. In old frame. Overall, fine condition. Very scarce. Ref: Peter Marzio, The Democratic Art, pp. 181f., plate 104.

A superior chromolithograph and a very scarce print after John Mix Stanley's famous painting "The Trial of Red Jacket." Red Jacket (ca. 1750-20 Jan. 1830) was a Seneca chief who became a leader of his nation during the American Revolution. Allied to the British, the Seneca found themselves on the losing side at the end of hostilities. From a weakened position, Red Jacket emerged as a negotiator and speaker rather than a warrior, to the consternation of many among the tribe. In 1792 he led a delegation of 50 Indians to Philadelphia where he met George Washington and received a large peace medal showing him shaking hands with the first president. As in this scene, Red Jacket is always portrayed wearing this medal. Nevertheless, in 1801 after defending Seneca tribal ways, which included rejection of Christianity, he was brought to trial for witchcraft by fellow tribesmen. His oratory provide a successful defense, and he emerged from the trial as a leader who preserved Seneca lands that included a reservation in the area of present-day Buffalo, New York. He and his tribe fought on the American side during the War of 1812, and that participation enabled the Seneca to retain their land for years after the death of this noble leader.

Stanley was interested in marketing his western images to a wider public than could afford his paintings, and so decided to use the relatively new and elaborate process of chromolithography. This process, with its many layers of color, most closely duplicated the appearance of original oil paintings, and Stanley hoped the resulting prints would help make his fortune. In 1869, Stanley arranged for a German publisher to issue chromolithographs of some of his paintings. The resulting prints proved to be quite popular, but the advent of the Franco-Prussian War soon made the business arrangement difficult to continue and few prints were ever produced. This rare example of one of Stanley's prints is a fine illustration both of the quality of his work and of the art of chromolithography in the late nineteenth century. $6,800

On The War Path
John Mix Stanley. [On the War Path.] Detroit: Calvert Lithographing Co., 1872. Chromolithograph by Robert T. Bishop. 22 1/4 x 30. Laid on canvas, mounted on new backing board. With extensive old tears and some rubbing on right side and in upper left quadrant. Repaired and inpainted. In original frame. Ref: Peter Marzio, The Democratic Art, pp. 180f., plate 105; James Bartlett, Antiques, Sept. 1976, pp. 520-521. Denver.

An extremely rare western print after John Mix Stanley's 1871 painting "On the War Path." In 1853, Stanley was an artist for Isaac Stevens' U.S. survey for the proposed northern route of the Pacific Railroad. This print records an episode from that expedition, when the survey party met an Indian army crossing through Cadotte's Pass in the Rocky Mountains. Stanley made an on-site sketch, later producing the painting in his study back in the East.

In 1869, Stanley arranged for a German publisher to issue chromolithographs of some of his paintings. These were quite popular, but the Franco-Prussian War soon made this arrangement difficult to continue. Thus Stanley, who was then living in Detroit, looked to a local firm, the Calvert Lithographing Company, to produce the chromolithograph of "On the War Path." The print this firm produced was larger and of much higher quality than the German prints, being made with twenty lithographic stones--twice as many as the Germans used. The print was extensively promoted, with newspaper reviews and an elaborate brochure, but Stanley's death in April of 1872 and a disastrous fire in a building next to the Calvert warehouse resulted in a very small production of the print. The fire resulted in the lithographic stones being damaged beyond repair after only a short run. One newspaper account said 300 prints were run off in the first printing, but it appears only 100 were produced, for in an 1897 interview, Thomas Calvert said only that many had been printed before the fire.

The print is best example of Stanley's work and one of the best American chromolithographs of the late nineteenth century. The image shows the Indian tribe crossing the pass, with the majesty of the Rockies beautifully rendered. Chromolithography was often used to imitate the texture and detail of an oil, and this print of the medium shows how closely this could be done. A very rare example of a most desirable print. $4,600

Johnson: Boyhood of Lincoln
Eastman Johnson. "The Boyhood of Lincoln. (An Evening in the Log Hut.)" Boston: L. Prang, 1868. Chromolithograph. 21 x 16 3/4. In period frame. Mounted on board as issued and with original labels by Prang.

Eastman Johnson was hailed for his charming image of the "Barefoot Boy," inspired by on John Greenleaf Whittier's poem. This classic American image was made into a chromolithograph by Louis Prang of Boston. Louis Prang was the most successful American publisher of chromolithographs and he said that the print of the Barefoot Boy was his most successful print ever. This success spurred Prang to go back to Johnson for another of his excellent images, this print showing young Abraham Lincoln reading by the light of a fire in his log cabin home. This is one of Prang's larger and most expensive images, selling for $12 a copy (in contrast to the Barefoot Boy's $5). According to Prang's promotional text, "This great national picture,…is full of artistic excellencies, apart from its associations…What better picture to have constantly before the eyes of the rising generation? It teaches that in America there is no social eminence impossible to the lowest youth, who by perseverance, study, and honesty of life and purpose, shall seek to reach the ranks of the rulers of the people." This print still evokes that American ideal, which in addition to the quality and attractiveness of this superb chromolithograph, makes this a most desirable American print. $2,100

"Landing of Columbus." Chicago: Kurz & Allison, ca. 1890. Chromolithograph. 17 1/2 x 25. Very good condition.

A colorful image by Kurz & Allison, showing the scene of Columbus' landing in America. Typically of the prints by this firm, the event is overstated with Victorian melodrama. The vivid colors show Columbus standing in resplendent dress at the shore with his ship in the background. As much a reflection of the taste of the print buying public as of the events portrayed in them, this print is a wonderful document of Victorian times. $500

GoGo to page with more historic chromolithographs by Kurz & Allison.

Off to WarSpacerHome From War

"Off to War" and "Home From The War." 1903. Chromolithographs. Each ca. 17 x 13. Some wear and chipping in margins.

Pairs of popular prints on the theme of a soldier heading off to war and then returning appeared in this country as early as the Mexican-American War. This pair appeared at the end of the Philippine-American War. $350

GoThere are quite a number of Civil War chromolithographs listed in our Civil War pages


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