Chromolithography: The Art of Color
The 50 years following the Civil War have been called the period of "chromo civilization" in America. Millions of chromolithographs were made, and they became the customary decoration in most homes throughout the country --what print historian Peter Marzio calls "the core of American life." One of the great appeals of chromolithography was its low production costs, allowing thousands of bright, attractive colored to be sold inexpensively, bringing glimpses of grand art within reach of the masses. But chromolithography was much more than this. Through chromolithography, historical events were graphically depicted, American views were spread far and wide, and all aspects of American life were vividly documented. Alongside these pragmatic purposes, artists employed the process to create prints that very closely followed their artistic vision, and many chromolithographs, which were produced using heavy oil-based inks, closely duplicated the appearance of actual oil paintings.
In honor of our 20th anniversary, we wanted to highlight chromolithography, a type of antique print that we feel receives less attention than is warranted by the interest and beauty of the material. Chromolithographs come in all sizes and prices, and we have a excellent selection shown on-line, as well as others in our inventory. We hope our web visitors will enjoy this exhibit.
There are many excellent references that discuss chromolithographs, but we are especially indebted to Peter C. Marzio's superb work, The Democratic Art. Much of the material in this exhibit was inspired by his seminal reference on American chromolithographs.
Go to listing of reference books on print processes, including an out-of-print copy of Marzio's book
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