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Louis Prang & Co. Prints


Louis Prang, from Boston, was the most prolific and influential publisher of American chromolithographs. Born in Germany, Prang learned to print in color from his father, a calico printer. In 1850, the younger Prang immigrated to the United States 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. Initially, his success was fueled by public consumption of his many small prints, which were popular for collections and albums. Within his first ten years of business, Prang started to issue color-printed copies of famous paintings and launched his magazine, Prang's Chromo: A Journal of Popular Art. Prang's prints, which were "sold in all Picture stores," were based on oils and watercolors and received highly praised from the press and many influential persons. More than any other print publisher, Prang created the market for chromolithographs in America, and his work was highly influential on firms around the country. With great success, Prang issued about 800 such art prints, advertising them as

"PRANG'S AMERICAN CHROMOS. 'THE DEMOCRACY OF ART' . . . Our Chromo Prints are absolute FACSIMILES of the originals, in color, drawing, and spirit, and their price is so low that every home may enjoy the luxury of possessing a copy of works of art, which hitherto adorned only the parlors of the rich."

Whittier's Birthplace
Thomas Hill. "Birthplace of Whittier, The Poet." [Haverhill, Mass.] Boston: L. Prang & Co., ca. 1865. Chromolithograph. 17 x 26. Mounted on original canvas and stretcher and in original wood frame. With some small repairs in image. Overall, very good condition and appearance.

There were several levels of quality for Prang's chromolithographs, with the most elaborate published backed on linen and stretcher, as in the case of this excellent print of the home in Haverhill, Massachusetts, where John Greenleaf Whittier was born on December 17, 1807. American views were particular popular subjects for Prang's chromolithographs and this is one of the larger and better quality prints issued by the firm, evidence of the popularity of the home of this American poet and abolitionist. $850

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

Barefoot BoySpacerWild Fruit
Eastman Johnson, "The Barefoot Boy" and George C. Lambdin, "Wild Fruit." Boston: L. Prang & Co., 1867-69. 12 3/4 x 9 3/4. Mounted on boards with original labels. Some surface blemishes and wear, but overall very good condition. In period wood frames. Denver.

A lovely pair of Prang genre prints. Johnson's "The Barefoot Boy" is one of the most famous of all Prang's chromos, advertised by Prang the personification of the American character, the boy "in homespun clothing, barefooted," symbolizing "that self-reliant aspect which characterizes the rural and backwoods children." This print was based by Eastman Johnson on John Greenleaf Whittier's poem, "The Barefoot Boy." The chromo was praised in magazines and books as the paradigm of what these prints could be, 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 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."

Prang was inspired by the popularity of 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 girl, also 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. The prints, in matching period frames, make a lovely pair that beautifully express the ideal image of American youth held by many after the Civil War. These prints also are wonderful examples of the quality of prints published by the greatest of American chromolithograph publishers. $900

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.

An example of the print described just above, sold singly. 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. Very good condition. In elaborate period frame.

An example of the print described just above, sold singly. 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. $425

Dessert No 4
C. P. Ream. "Dessert. No. 4" Boston: L. Prang & Co., 1872. Chromolithograph. 12 x 10. In original, gilt frame. Very good condition. Denver.

One in a series of still-lifes issued by the Prang lithographic company as "Dining-Room Pictures". Prang's Chromo of 1868 announced, "Our fruit and flower pieces are admirably adapted for the decoration of dining-rooms and parlors. We intend to issue still other pictures of this character; and we venture to predict that the set when complete will be unrivalled either in Europe or America." (Katharine M. McClinton, The Chromolithographs of Louis Prang, p. 180). C. P. Ream was one of several artists whom the Prang company called upon to produce paintings appropriate for reproduction by the chromolithographic method, which was best suited to work employing strong colors. These still-lifes, depicting fish, game, flowers, fruits and vegetables, reflected the height of Victorian middle-class taste. Carducius Plantagenet Ream, born in Lancaster, Ohio in 1837, studied art in Europe and returned to become Chicago's most successful, internationally-recognized painter of still lifes. According to Peter Falk in Who Was Who in American Art, "Ream was a master at rendering the color and sensuous texture of fruit by bathing his subjects in soft but dramatic light." This chromo, with its rich and lustrous depiction of peaches in a glass compote surrounded by grapes and other fruits, handsomely framed, is a glorious example of the democratic art of chromolithography. $450

Friend in Need
Felix Schlesinger. "A Friend In Need." Boston: L. Prang & Co., 1867. 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 were less likely to respond to the American paradigm of Johnson's image. $425

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. Denver.

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

Wild Flowers 1SpacerWild Flowers 2
Ellen Robbins. "Wild Flowers." #1 & #2. Boston: L. Prang & Co., 1870. Pair of chromolithographs. Each ca. 6 x 8. Mounted on board as issued. Very good condition. In original frames and with original labels. Denver.

This charming pair of prints were based on paintings by Ellin Robbins (1828-1905), an artist and art teacher from Massachusetts. Robbins was mostly self-taught and she specialized in paintings of flowers and other still lives. Later she advertised in Boston newspapers as "Miss Robbins' Flower and Autumn Leaf Painting Classes." Her work achieved even further recognition when Louis Prang issued a number of chromolithographs based on them, such as this pair of wild flowers. For the pair, $450

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

Just Caught
After J.F. Herring. "Just Caught." Boston: L. Prang, ca.1860- 1880's. 7 3/4 x 12 /4. Minor surface abrasions. Otherwise, very good condition. In period frame.

In addition to his American sporting images by Tait, Prang issued some British sporting prints, as popular in the nineteenth century as they are today. This bright image is based on work by one of the greatest British artists of this genre, J.F. Herring. $450

After Joseph Morviller. "Sunlight in Winter." Boston: L. Prang, ca. 1860- 1870. 16 x 23 1/2. Some surface abrasion, wear, and aged varnish. Fair condition.

A Prang image of a winter scene by American artist Joseph Morviller (1800-1870). Despite its condition problems, still a print with considerable appeal. $375

Prang: Trades & Occupations.  Printer.
Plate 12. "Trades & Occupations. Printer." From Prang's Aid for Object Teaching. Boston: L. Prang & Co, 1874. 6 5/8 x 10 7/8. Chromolithograph. Rare. In dark wood frame. Glued down but stable.

An interesting and unusual image of a tradesman's work in the 19th century. $375

Prang: Trades & Occupations.  Lithographer.
Plate 5. "Trades & Occupations. Lithographer." From Prang's Aid for Object Teaching. Boston: L. Prang & Co, 1874. 6 5/8 x 10 7/8. Chromolithograph. Rare. In dark wood frame. Some expertly repaired tears. Glued down but stable.

A great artifact documenting work in a print shop. $225

Battle of Winchester
Thure de Thulstrup. "Final Charge at Winchester." Boston: L. Prang, 1887. 15 x 21 7/8. Chromolithograph. With alignment marks and color squares. Very good condition. Denver.

A striking image that is one of the rare and important Civil War series issued by Louis Prang between 1886 and 1888. In the early 1880s, Century Magazine issued a very popular work entitled Battles and Leaders of the Civil War, and Chicago printers Kurz & Allison issued a large chromolithograph of Gettysburg. In response to their success, Louis Prang published a portfolio of 18 elaborate chromolithographs of important battles of the war. Naming them "aquarelle facsimile prints," Prang hoped to distinguish them from simpler chromos. Though he claimed they were made by a "new and secret process," they were primarily chromolithographs accomplished without any line work. Based on watercolors commissioned by Prang, they were intended to be naturalistic and accurate, well-suited to Prang's target market of veterans and their descendants. Prang gathered testimonials to the images' accuracy from prominent veterans, and he included detailed text on the battles involved. The prints were quite popular and helped to create a great surge in patriotic nostalgia about the war.

Spotlighting war heroes still alive at the time of printing, Prang intended something for everyone, offering six scenes each of eastern battles, western battles, and naval images (18 prints in total). Issued either as a portfolio set or separately (suitable for framing), the chromos were firstissued in parts over time and were later packaged according to subject matter (East, West, or Naval). (Note: these are not to be confused with the more common later editions of Prang's chromos, issued by the American Lithographic Company. Not only are the originals more finely produced, but they also are much more scarce).

On September 19, 1864, the Battle of Winchester was fought along the Opequan Creek in the Shenandoah Valley, between the Union General Sheridan and Confederate General Early. This image shows a bold cavalry charge by General Wesley Merritt's Regular Cavalry Brigade. The ground at Winchester was particularly suited for a cavalry charge and the attack with sabres drawn, under Colonel Charles R. Lowell, was the most effective such in the war, completely breaking the Confederate lines. In this image, Lowell is shown leading the charge on a white horse, accompanied to his right by General George A. Custer (in black sombrero and red cravat), as well as other officers in the brigade. $850

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©The Philadelphia Print Shop, Ltd. Last updated November 13, 2014