Art and Graphic

Celebrating Chromolithography

The years following the Civil War have been called a period of “chromo civilization” in America. Millions of products using chromolithographs were made. People loved to have them to decorate their home.

Chromolithography came to existence around 1840 and then vanished by the 1930's after centuries of black ink on white paper. The chromolithograph process began with detailed watercolor sketches created by commercial artists. Skilled lithograph artists transferred designs by hand onto Bavarian limestone printing slabs. The skillful use of chromolithography allows the creation of meticulous and convincing tonal drawing.

People were dazzled by the lush colorful hues created with the technique. It opened the doors for artists to create beautiful colorful designs, transforming calling cards, wedding announcements, greetings cards, cigar box labels, advertising posters into eye-catching works of art.

Some people actually didn't accept it as an art form due to its mechanical origin, it didn't capture the true spirit of the painter. The large production and low costs resulted in products that lack authenticity.

Chromolithographs can be grouped into three basic types. They can be found as book illustrations, French style chromolithographs, and prints that were a duplication of oil paintings.

European and American chromolithographs can still be found. They can range in cost from hundreds to thousands of dollars.

Book Illustration Example

French Style Chromolithographs: intented to duplicate watercolors or paintings

German Style - oil painting duplicates

Chromolithograph Christmas Card

Victorian Christmas Card

James Montgomery Flagg (June 18, 1877 - 1960): I Want You for U.S. Army, 1917 - chromolithograph on paper (Smithsonian)

Chromolithograph Circus Poster Showing a Calliope or Steam Organ, 1874

Jell-O booklet. Detail. Liza Cowan ephemera collections.

  • http://www.philaprintshop.com/chromos.html
  • http://americanantiquarian.org/prang/whatisachromo
  • http://antiqueprintsblog.blogspot.com/2009/06/chromolithography.html
  • http://i12bent.tumblr.com/page/1383
  • http://seesaw.typepad.com/blog/art-by-technique-chromolithography/

  • Cleia Muggler

    California based graphic designer discovering new ways to balance functionality and aesthetics.

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