Friday, February 24, 2012

America's First Art Educator

Louis Prang (1824-1909) is considered to be America's premiere printer of chromolithography. Born in Poland, he later immigrated to the US as a political refugee and found work in New York and Boston where he became a skilled lithographer and wood engraver. Prang is also known as the "father of the Christmas card" after publishing the first cards in 1874, and as America's first art educator and publisher of art history books, textbooks and drawing books of all kinds. He even produced a line of child-safe art materials including chalks, crayons and non-toxic watercolor paints which are still in production today, at the Dixon Ticonderoga Company.
      The image above of the lithographer's studio is from the American Antiquarian's Society Digital Image Archive. Below are 2 children's books published by Prang in 1878 and made available through the Baldwin Collection of the International Digital Children's Library. They happen to be quite colorful in comparison to much of Prang's work. Most of his fine prints and cards tended to be a very rich, but muted color palette. These book covers also appear to have a very strong Arts and Crafts influence which was being popularized in England about this same time. 

The three ornate typographic layouts above and below are chromolith publisher's proofs from Volume 8 of the L. Prang and Co. scrapbooks of colored advertising cards. These are from the collection of the New York Public Library Digital Gallery.

This image of a progressive portrait of Beethoven, printed with 25 print runs by Prang, is considered to be one of the highlights from the Phillips Library. It is currently on exhibit with other highlights from their collection through November 2012 at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, MA. 

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