May 24, 2011

Vintage Photographs Colored by Hand

By Susan (tparty)

I have a fondness for hand-tinted photographs. I love their ethereal colors. Produced before the advent of color photography, these images combined the technology of the camera with the artistry of the human hand. The initial desire was to make the photograph as much like the original scene as possible, since color films had not yet been invented.

A Garden of Larkspur by Nutting.
I have a stash of these photos amassed over the last 30 years. A favorite one from my personal collection is shown above. It is the work of Wallace Nutting.

A couple of "non-Nutting" photos on the wall of my back porch.
Wallace Nutting (1861–1941) was an American minister, photographer, artist and antiquarian who is most famous for his hand-tinted pictures. He also was an accomplished author, lecturer, furniture maker and collector. His romantic images of the New England landscape were a great commercial success. They remain popular among collectors today.

1911 young lady admiring her photo by TheOldBarnDoor.
Most of my collection is by Nutting, but a few are by his contemporaries such as Thompson and Gibson. Nutting was widely recognized as the country’s leading producer of hand-colored photographs during the early 20th century, but he was by no means alone.

Bermuda hand tinted photograph circa 1920 by Sweetpearlvintage.
Throughout the country, literally hundreds of regional photographers were selling their own brand of hand-colored images. They were popular among the middle classes in the United States, Canada, Bermuda and the Bahamas as affordable and stylish gifts and vacation souvenirs. Many of these hand-tinted pictures were reproduced as postcards.

Woman and 3 fishes French photo postcard by FascinatingHobbies.
The golden age of hand-painted photography was from 1900 to 1940. By the 1950s, the availability of color film all but stopped the production of hand-colored photographs. The upsurge in popularity of antiques and collectibles in the 1960s, however, increased their interest.

1933 hand-tinted photo of Vivian in her garden by tparty.
Although Wallace Nutting was the most famous and bestselling photographer of this genre, other skilled hand-colored pieces can be found by E. G. Barnhill, J. Carleton Bicknell, Royal Carlock, David Davidson, Norman Edson, H. Marshall Gardiner, Gibson, William James Harris, F. Jay Haynes, Charles Higgins, Edmond Royce, Charles Sawyer, Fred Thompson and Stephen Willard.


Patricia at TheOldBarnDoor said...

Great background piece...thanks for sharing. There is a lovely elegance to hand-painted photos and postcards and it gives a special touch to show that someone cared enough about that image. It somehow brings the piece to life. Interesting read.

cherrylippedroses said...

I just love reading and learning about someone...what they did...and, why we now find them "collectible"...this was great...really enjoyed it...thanks...Kathryn

black eyed susans kitchen said...

What a wonderful collection! The artwork is beautiful and so specific to the time period.

Anonymous said...

I love the old hand tinted photos as well. My mom and I have been collecting them for years from auctions and flea markets. She even has one of the rare pics of the Old Man of the Mountain in New Hampshire. The Old Man is no longer there so that photo is a rarity indeed! Thank you for using my hand tinted photo of a beach in Bermuda. Another rare one!