The print shown here was loaned by George Glazer Gallery to the historic house museum Boscobel House and Gardens, Garrison, New York for the special exhibition Home on the Hudson: Women and Men Painting Landscapes 1825-1875, and is reproduced and described in the accompanying exhibition catalogue. Art historian Katherine E. Manthorne of the Graduate Center at City University of New York served as guest curator and as lead author and editor of the catalogue. The show, on view from June 7 to September 7, 2009, looked at the Hudson River School of painting by focusing on the residences of female and male painters, known and unknown, and examining the art created in and around them. (Read more about the exhibition.) The catalogue entry for Palmer’s lithograph, written by Whitney Thompson, provides background information about her artistic process and places her work in historical context:
It is usually claimed that Palmer worked from photographs for her knowledge of locations she was assigned to draw. Examination of the drawings she did preliminary to the prints and other evidence suggests that she likely boarded train or steamer to arrive at sites along the Hudson, where she sketched the scenery onsite. Her knowledge of the British picturesque tradition provided the scaffolding, but observed detail was necessary to give viewers a sense of the authentic. Whatever its precise source, Palmer indisputably discovered a formula that pleased her audience, and it has been claimed that her work decorated the homes of more average Americans than any other artist. It is this same connection to the ordinary — as an image maker who helped define American popular culture — that gives her prints of the Hudson River their powerful and lasting appeal. (p. 10)
Frances Flora (Fanny) Palmer was a British-born American lithographer and draftswoman. In her capacity as one of Currier & Ives principal artists, “[i]t is likely that during the latter half of the nineteenth century more pictures by Mrs. Fanny Palmer decorated the homes of ordinary Americans than those of any other artist, dead or alive,” wrote Ewell L. Newman, a Currier & Ives specialist. Palmer was taught drawing at a girls’ school in her native Leicester, England, and later started a lithography business in 1841 with her husband, Edmund S. Palmer; she as the artist and he the printer. They emigrated to New York in 1844. Edmund descended into chronic alcoholism, and Fanny became the family breadwinner. In 1851, she was hired by Currier & Ives, where she produced close to 200 prints for the renowned firm, mainly rural landscapes. Many were of New York and Long Island, while others were pictures of places she had never seen, working from photographs. Her works are in the collections of many American museums including the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; the New York Historical Society and the Brooklyn Museum of Art.
The lithography firm of Currier & Ives was founded in 1834 by Nathaniel Currier as N. Currier, Lithographer, and based in New York. In 1852, he brought his brother-in-law, James Merritt Ives, into the business and renamed the firm Currier & Ives five years later. They were extremely prolific and highly successful, producing almost 7,500 different separately issued art prints through the 19th century until 1907, aptly advertising themselves as “Print-makers to the American People.” Their prints were issued in either small, medium or large folio, though some particularly popular images were issued in more than one size. Dozens of American artists in the mid 19th century painted primarily for lithographic reproduction by Currier & Ives and other firms. To please a broad audience, the firm presented a warmly positive vision of America, frequently sentimental, and sometimes with a touch of humor. Currier & Ives prints generally portrayed the American landscape, scenery and landmarks, including the westward expansion, as well as daily life in both urban and rural settings. Their sporting and maritime subjects were particularly popular. These prints are now highly collectible as records of American history, as fine works of American art, and for their decorative appeal.
Full publication information: Entered according to Act of Congress in the year 1857, by Currier & Ives in the Clerk’s Office of the Dist’t. Court of the South’n Dist’t of N.Y. New York. Published by Currier & Ives, 152 Nassau St.
Bonfante-Warren, Alexandra. Currier & Ives: Portraits of a Nation. New York: Friedman/Fairfax, 1998. pp. 9, 23-41.
“Boscobel’s Exhibition Gallery.” Boscobel Historic House and Garden. 2009. http://www.boscobel.org/exhibition-gallery.html (1 July 2009).
Conningham, Frederic A. Currier and Ives Prints: An Illustrated Check List. New York: Crown, 1949. 2973.
DeWan, George. “The Picture of a Workhorse.” LI History.com. http://www.lihistory.com/histpast/past1006.htm (14 May 2002).
“Frances (Fanny) Flora Palmer (neé Bond).” The Grove Dictionary of Art. New York: Macmillan. 2000. Artnet.com. http://www.artnet.com/library/06/0649/T064931.asp (14 May 2002).
Manthorne, Katherine E., ed. Home on the Hudson: Women and Men Painting Landscapes 1825-1875. Garrison, New York: Boscobel House and Gardens, 2009, pp. 9-10.