Lithograph with hand-coloring and gum arabic on wove paper. Title printed in lower margin, “F.F. Palmer, Del.” on lower left; “Currier & Ives, Litho. NY” on lower right.
21 x 29 ¾ sheet; 35 x 43 ½ framed
This magnificent and superbly colored lithograph is based on a drawing by Frances F. Palmer (1812-1876), and depicts the steam paddlewheeler Princess at a landing along the Mississippi river, where men load firewood to feed the steamboat’s engine.
A campfire burns nearby, and a second steamers approaches from the distance. At the top left of the composition, a full moon glistens luminously in the midst of silver-lined clouds, illuminating an otherwise pitch black sky. The moonlit river, the billowing black smoke from the boat, and the intense labor of the wood loaders all contribute to the drama and tension of the scene. The stark juxtaposition of the peaceful nighttime scenery of the river with the roaring activity surrounding the steamer captures a vision of America’s transition into an industrial superpower. The steamboat was quintessential to 19th-century industrial development around the Mississippi river, since its steam power allowed for the practical large-scale transport of passengers and freight both up and down-river, as well as navigation in shallow waters and upriver against strong currents.
The publishing firm of Currier & Ives created the most popular and highly regarded lithographs of quintessentially American scenes ever produced. The quality, vast scope and engagingly populist style of their works have made their names synonymous with an idealistic vision of 19th-century American promise and optimism. Nathaniel Currier began his lithographic career as an apprentice in 1828. By the mid-1830's he had established his own firm on Spruce Street in New York City. In 1857 James Ives became a partner in the flourishing business, which went on to produce over 7,000 lithographs by 1907.
Frances F. Palmer was an England-born lithographer and draughtswoman who became one of the most impressive graphic artists of the 19th century. She learned to draw at a Leicester girls’ school run by the artist Mary Linwood (1756-1845). In the 1830s, she married Edmund Seymour Palmer, with whom she started a lithography business in 1841. In 1843, she immigrated to the United States with her family, and opened a lithography company in New York. Although she gained an excellent reputation for lithography, the business lost money and closed in the 1850s. However, Currier & Ives recognized her talents and hired her in 1849. Palmer was particularly skilled at background tinting and rendering atmospheric landscapes, and soon became one of the company's core artists. She had a prodigious output, completing several hundred lithographs, more than any of the other regular artists employed by Currier & Ives.You are warmly invited to visit our gallery at 1016 Madison Avenue in New York City to view this work whenever it might be convenient.