In Glorious Color

Trade card from the 1880s
Trade card from the 1880s

From black and white to color:  the invention of printing by lithography brought beauty to people’s daily lives through mass production. If you are old enough to remember when color TV was new, you remember the first time you saw a show in color. I was amazed. It was so much more lifelike and vibrant than shades of gray.

In the late 1800s, lithography brought an explosion of items printed in color. People were handed trade cards like these, picked them up in the store, and pulled them from their mailboxes. Some women and children pasted them into albums.

An exotic Russian czar and brilliant color promote thread in this American trade card.
An exotic Russian czar and brilliant color promote thread in this American trade card.

Handbills distributed on the street for events, illustrations in books, free promotional posters you could tack on your wall–suddenly color was everywhere.

Recognize this painting from my last post? The Crimson Rambler, named after the wildly popular rose.

"The Crimson Rambler," ca. 1908, by Philip Leslie Hale
“The Crimson Rambler,” ca. 1908, by Philip Leslie Hale

Here’s one way that rose got so popular: trade cards.

Crimson Rambler trade card

Technology also brought colorful clothes. At this time, in the last half of the 1800s, synthetic dyes were introduced and suddenly people could wear rich colors.  Here are two silk dresses from the 1890s. These are from the Pasadena Museum of History.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Technology brought the excitement of color. “The Color Explosion” was an exhibit at the Huntington showcasing part of their Jay T. Last Collection of lithographed items. Click on that link to see some examples that really took advantage of color, and read how it changed the world.

The Artist’s Garden: Impressionists and the Garden Movement

Take a second or two to load these beautiful paintings from “The Artist’s Garden: American Impressionism and the Garden Movement, 1887-1920,” now at the Huntington. With the rise of the middle class and railroads, more people could commute to their job in a city and come home to a suburb.

Book published in 1901
Book published in 1901

Artists and other people enjoyed gardening in their own yards or in their artists’ colonies. Both painting and gardening involve color, form, and composition.

"The Crimson Rambler," ca. 1908, by Philip Leslie Hale
“The Crimson Rambler,” ca. 1908, by Philip Leslie Hale

“The Crimson Rambler” may look wonderfully old-fashioned to us, but its 1908 audience recognized this hybridized rose as a lovely product of technology. I like the lavender light on her white skirt, above,

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the pink in the multicolor grass,

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and the veil that is in sun and shadow.

Laundry drying on the clothesline, along with grass and shadows, is beautiful.
Laundry drying on the clothesline, along with grass and shadows, is beautiful.

 

"A Breezy Day," 1887. Charles Courtney Curran.
“A Breezy Day,” 1887. Charles Courtney Curran.

I think these women are spreading out laundered sheets to dry. This is a jewel of a painting, small (not quite 12 x 20 inches), and vivid, clear, and crisp as a windy day.

This exhibit, from the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, is at the Huntington through Monday, May 9, and then continues its tour in the East. If you don’t live close to Los Angeles, that’s okay. I’ll keep posting about the Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

Can you see the banner of the painting "The Crimson Rambler?"
Can you see the banner of the painting “The Crimson Rambler?”

I’ll leave you with two artists’ own homes.

"My House in Winter" by Charles Morris Young
“My House in Winter” by Charles Morris Young

The labels with “The Artist’s Garden” exhibit state that the garden in winter was often discussed in books and magazines. The winter garden was considered a relaxing retreat, and winter a time of renewal.

The artist's home. "Snow" by John Henry Twachtman.
The artist’s home. “Snow” by John Henry Twachtman.

At the Huntington, I had read “renewal” to mean the sleeping gardens. I think of renewal in springtime grass and flowers. Maybe the writer meant personal renewal. Gardens, and impressionist art, renew and refresh me.

Happy Spring! Enjoy nature. I’ll post again on the first Monday in June.

Anxiety and Change: The Jazz Age and Wedding Gowns of the 1920s

A global war with staggering loss of life. The very air became a battlefield, with airplanes, invented not long before, turned into death machines. An influenza epidemic killed 50 million worldwide.

Young American men returned from war, and women from military offices and civilian wartime industries.  They worried that another war or epidemic could end their lives, so many of them did not want to live the quiet, seemingly dull, lives of their Edwardian parents.

The young were hyped up from the war, accustomed to the anxiety of wartime.  Popular music and dances became more energetic. Clothing became relaxed.

This zeitgeist (spirit of the era) is shown well in the recent movie “The Great Gatsby.”

To add to the woes, Prohibition spread nationwide in 1920.

In the 1920s, the Jazz Age, women changed.
– They voted,
– Imitated boys and men by compressing their bust with undergarments and cutting their hair short,
– Wore makeup and smoked cigarettes openly, actions that had previously been associated with prostitutes,
– Wore short skirts to reveal their legs, which had not been done for thousands of years.

Imagine how the older generation felt about women’s behavior and appearance.  These two bridal gowns, worn before the 1920s, show rising hemlines.

The 1913 wedding dress on the right has a peekaboo effect.  The underskirt stops above the ankles.

The bridal gown on the left is later, during the war.  The skirt is short and a detachable train fastens at the shoulders.

1920s wedding gown.  Asymmetrical hem.
1920s wedding gown. Asymmetrical hem.

In the 1920s, women used undergarments to deemphasize their bust and hips, just the opposite effect of the old-fashioned corsets.  The goal was an androgynous figure, so dresses no longer nipped in at the waist, as shown in the gown at the right.

This gown has embroidered lace.  We think of the 1920s as the era of beaded dresses.

The Pasadena Museum of History, where over 40 antique and vintage bridal gowns are on display until July 14, has three gorgeous 1920s beaded bridal gowns.  One is  a pastel color.

Jazz-Age brides often wore elaborate headdresses or caps.  Here is a photo of Dorothea Underwood.  There are closeups of her dress at the end of this post.

Dorothea’s dress is sleeveless, but she wore gloves past the elbow, revealing her upper arms.  Although the dress is short, she wore a long train, which you can see near the toes of the little girl in the wedding party.  Dorothea’s bridal cap is attached to, or part of, a long, filmy veil.

The 1924 Sabin-Underwood Wedding Party
The 1924 Sabin-Underwood Wedding Party

Her silk gown has faux pearls, some of them clustered and surrounded by beads.

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Her shoes are silk satin with faux orange blossoms.

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Dorothea’s 1924 silk gown with dropped waist

Come back on Friday for wedding dresses of the 1930s.

Stereoscopes

Please DO Touch.  Museums encourage visitors to handle and look through antique stereoscopes, to see photos rendered in 3-D.

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Oakland Museum, Oakland, California

In the age before radio and television, the stereoscope was very popular.  Families had one in the parlor, along with many black-and-white photos, two identical photos on a single card.   They bought the cards with the double images on them.

Oakland Museum
Oakland Museum

If you see one in a museum, pick it up and pull the photos toward or away from you until the image pops — they may be black and white photos, but the 3-D effect is vivid.  Many of the photos are landscapes with depth, like the photos here.  The one directly above shows a river in a canyon.

Most folks could not travel far, but a collection of these images from many places would be fun, and your friends would have a different collection in their home.