Edward Mitchell Bannister, born St. Andrews, New Brunswick, Canada 1828-died Providence, RI 1901
oil on canvas
6 x 8 1/4 in. (15.3 x 21.0 cm.)
Edward Bannister’s painting shows a train cutting through a rural landscape, where a railroad trestle interrupts the flow of the stream below. These familiar signs of progress in the nineteenth-century landscape highlight a concern shared by many of Bannister’s fellow painters, who worried that industrialization would soon destroy their nation’s natural beauty.
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Frederick and Joan Slatsky
Medium: silk Technique: screen printed on plain weave using eight screens
printed, dyed & painted textiles
New York, USA
Research in Progress
Divided into four sections with black and white scene of train station. Top left has a train/trolley in color and the bottom right corner show colored motifs. Thin linework used to create perspective with bold outlines for emphasis of architecture.
A humorous fantasy on railroad stations and trains. Arranged at random are European glass-roofed railroad stations. A small engine at left draws a car, obviously English, which bears the legend "Second Class." Printed in colors with black outline on white ground.
Medium: silk Technique: screen printed on plain weave
printed, dyed & painted textiles
Research in Progress
Vistas of railway stations, with emphasis on the metal structure, with engines, coaches, and passengers depicted. Line drawing in black on a white ground, with touches of color in blue, green, orange, and red.
Vignetted tintype of a freight train (Rome, Watertown, & Ogdensburg Railroad) pulling flatbed cars and a group of people on an adjacent hill; in foreground, telegraph poles and another train track.
The NMAH Photo History Collection (PHC) has over 3000 tintype photographs dating from the beginnings of the process in 1856 to the present. ‘Tintype’ was coined and became the favored name.
Tintypes in the PHC are found in albums, the Kaynor Union Case collection and as individual photographs. The original tintype process patent was assigned to William and Peter Neff in 1856. William Neff died a short time later, but his son Peter, who named the process Melainotype, continued on with his work. The earliest tintypes in the PHC are a group of more than thirty Peter Neff Melainotypes, some of which date back to 1856 and contain notes written by Peter Neff. Shortly after the Melainotype, Victor Griswold introduced a very similar process on thinner, lighter iron plates and called them Ferrotypes. The PHC has tintypes ranging from rare large images between 5”x7” and 10”x12”down to small images cut to 6mm diameter to fit jewelry. The Melainotypes are between 1/6 plate and 4”x5” in size and many have indistinct images. There are also unexposed Melainotype plates including a pack of 1/6 plates and large whole-plates with four decorated oval borders that were designed to be cut into smaller quarter plates after exposure.
The great majority of tintype photographs are studio portraits, including the very popular ‘Gem’ size (about ¾” x 1”). Almost every gem tintype in the PHC is an individual head and shoulders portraits, the only exceptions seen being a full length portrait and a head and shoulders portrait of a couple. Most of these gem portraits are in small gem albums designed to hold two to six gems per page. However, several gems are mounted on cartes-de-visite (CDV) size cards and set in specifically designed album pages. Some of these CDV mounted gems are in elaborate miniature frames attached to the card. The tintypes larger than gem size show a greater variety of subject matter, but still with a main focus on individual portraits, this is especially true of the smaller 1/16 and 1/9 plate images. Outdoor tintypes are rare. Of the few in the PHC, the most common outdoor subjects noted are people standing in front of their homes and photographs of people proudly standing with, or sitting on, their horse or horses and buggy. One of the largest tintypes is a 9”x 7” outdoor view of a row of townhouses with a couple standing on one of the balconies. There is also an outdoor tintype of men fishing along with another of their days catch.
One common subject in tintype photography, as noted in text books, is the civil war soldier. The durability of the tintype meant that photographs taken in the field could be sent home. However, this category of tintype is not well represented in the PHC, with less than thirty noted due to the fact that the majority of the Smithsonian’s Civil War tintypes are located mainly in the Military History Collection. Most of the PHC examples of Civil War tintypes are in the Kaynor collection of cased images.
A few of the tintypes in the PHC are hand colored. This coloring varies from light tinting of faces and hands to heavy overpainting that obscures the underlying tintype image. A number of the tintypes (about 30) depict people with the apparatus of their occupations. Some are posed studio shots and others appear to be photographs of people at their place of work. Among the occupational views are images of a doctor, grocery deliveryman, weavers, fireman, ice delivery man, craftsman, cobbler, shoe shiners, mail carrier, surveyor, pipe liners and other tintypes of people wearing work clothes and posing with tools. These include a unique full-length gem tintype of a man in work apron with a saw.
Sentimental genre prints documented the social image of Victorian virtue through domestic scenes of courtship, family, home life, and images of the “genteel female.” Children are depicted studying nature or caring for their obedient pets as they learn their place in the greater world. Romantic scenes picture devoted husbands with their contented, dutiful wives. In these prints, young women educated in reading, music, needlework, the arts, the language of flowers, basic math and science are subjugated to their family’s needs.
These prints became popular as lithography was introduced to 19th Century Americans. As a new art form, it was affordable for the masses and provided a means to share visual information by crossing the barriers of race, class and language. Sentimental prints encouraged the artistic endeavors of schoolgirls and promoted the ambitions of amateur artists, while serving as both moral instruction and home or business decoration. They are a pictorial record of our romanticized past.
This colored print is an outdoor scene of a naked child with a drum on his back facing a dog seated on a large rock. A toy gun is propped against the dog.
This print was produced by the lithography firm of Risso & Browne. The firm was founded in New York City by Charles Risso and William R Browne in 1832. The firm produced portrait prints, satirical prints, city views, sheet music, technical prints of silk worms and sentimental images. In 1837 Charles Risso left New York for the city of New Orleans and continued to make prints. He returned to New York in 1846. Browne continued to use the company’s name through 1839.
Currently not on view
Peters, Harry T.. America on Stone
Harry T. Peters "America on Stone" Lithography Collection
Hugo Robus, born Cleveland, OH 1885-died New York City 1964
oil on canvas mounted on fiberglass
26 1/4 x 32 1/8 in. (66.8 x 81.5 cm)
Hugo Robus created Train in Motion toward the end of his painting career, shortly before he devoted all of his time to sculpture. He was fascinated by the futurist painters, who emphasized the speed and power of modern machinery, but claimed not to be “initiated into their plane of intelligence” when he tried to understand the movement’s principles (Tarbell, Hugo Robus, 1885-1964, 1980). The repeated shapes and blurred colors in this painting express a sense of movement, as if we are watching the landscape sweep past the window of a speeding train. The bright colors and fragmented shapes appear like a kaleidoscope, suggesting that this image is just one of an infinite number of possibilities.
“I [am] interested not in what the eye records but in what our sensitivities feel.” Robus, “Sculptor as Self Critic,” reprinted in Tarbell, Hugo Robus, 1885-1964, 1980
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Hugo Robus, Jr.