Art for the Middle Classes

Art for the Middle Classes: America's Illustrated Magazines of the 1840s

CYNTHIA LEE PATTERSON
Copyright Date: 2010
Pages: 176
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt12f50n
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    Art for the Middle Classes
    Book Description:

    How did the average American learn about art in the mid-nineteenth century? With public art museums still in their infancy, and few cities and towns large enough to support art galleries or print shops, Americans relied on mass-circulated illustrated magazines. One group of magazines in particular, known collectively as the Philadelphia pictorials, circulated fine art engravings of paintings, some produced exclusively for circulation in these monthlies, to an eager middle-class reading audience. These magazines achieved print circulations far exceeding those of other print media (such as illustrated gift books, or catalogs from art-union membership organizations). Godey's, Graham's, Peterson's, Miss Leslie's, and Sartain's Union Magazine included two to three fine art engravings monthly, "tipped in" to the fronts of the magazines, and designed for pull-out and display. Featuring the work of a fledgling group of American artists who chose American rather than European themes for their paintings, these magazines were crucial to the distribution of American art beyond the purview of the East Coast elite to a widespread middle-class audience. Contributions to these magazines enabled many an American artist and engraver to earn, for the first time in the young nation's history, a modest living through art.Author Cynthia Lee Patterson examines the economics of artistic production, innovative engraving techniques, regional imitators, the textual "illustrations" accompanying engravings, and the principal artists and engravers contributing to these magazines.

    eISBN: 978-1-60473-737-0
    Subjects: Art & Art History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. LIST OF FIGURES
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. LIST OF COLOR PLATES
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-2)
  6. 1 Introduction THE PHILADELPHIA PICTORIALS AND AMERICAN VISUAL CULTURE IN THE 1840S
    (pp. 3-17)

    In January 1844, publisher Louis A. Godey offered to his “fair patrons” ofThe Lady’s Booka frontispiece engraving of a flower garland–draped vase surrounded by books and a decorative fan prepared by the artist, William Croome (see plate 1). Godey used his editorial column that month to remind his “kind and constant readers” of the tremendous expense of providing them with the “numerous beautiful engravings” and the work of the “first writers in America.” Importantly, Godey greets Croome as an artist familiar to both the publisher and his readers: “Our talented friend, Mr. Croome, has furnished an embellishment...

  7. 2 “From the Burin of an American Artist” ARTISTIC PRODUCTION IN THE 1830S AND 1840S
    (pp. 18-36)

    In his “Editor’s Table” for the March 1839 issue of his magazine, Louis A. Godey promises to offer his fair readers, besides the monthly color fashion plate, “a beautiful engraving on steel,” either a portrait, landscape, or historical subject. Then, in a special column entitled “OUR PLATES” published two months later in the May issue, he promises that these steel engravings will be “always from the burin of an American artist.” Additionally, he notes his plans to provide two extra steel plates each year, of either an American landscape, or “some celebrated literary character,” observing that this will bring the...

  8. 3 “Superior Embellishments” INNOVATIONS TO THE GRAPHIC ARTS IN THE PHILADELPHIA PICTORIALS
    (pp. 37-54)

    In January 1843, an upstart little monthly entitledMiss Leslie’s Magazine: Home Book of Fashion, Literature and Domestic Economyentered the Philadelphia magazine fray with a bold new claim to its readership: “… we have caused our fashion plates for the present month to be arranged in a novel and ingenious manner,such as has not before been attempted in this country; nor, as far as we know, in any other, except in costly books of which the edition is very limited” (Miss Leslie’s, January 1843, 1, emphasis added). The editor, Eliza Leslie, a sister to the painter Charles Leslie,...

  9. 4 “The Fluttering Host of Many-Colored Competitors” REGIONAL IMITATORS IN THE NORTHEAST, WEST, AND SOUTH
    (pp. 55-86)

    An August 1842 puff printed on the inside back cover of the newly launchedBoston Miscellanyqueried, “Why cannot Boston produce a first-rate literary magazine as well as Philadelphia?” Clearly, by the early 1840s Philadelphia’s illustrated monthly magazines of art and literature set the standards against which newcomers sought to compete. This bold writer then answers his own query: “It can, and in this instance it has.” TheBoston Miscellanylaunched in January 1842 with Nathan Hale Jr., son of one of Boston’s famous patriots, as literary editor. Seeking to capitalize on the Hale reputation, and on the desire of...

  10. 5 “Illustration of a Picture” AMERICAN AUTHORS AND THE MAGAZINE EMBELLISHMENTS
    (pp. 87-118)

    In a letter dated April 6, 1839, Joseph H. Ingraham writes this to Philadelphia publisher Edward Carey: “I have forwarded to you … the MS of the tale written by me, at your request, to illustrate the painting by Mount, which I saw at your residence when in Philadelphia.” Carey published, among other literary matter, the popular annualThe Gift, for which Ingraham sent along his manuscript. Ingraham’s letter highlights the practice of mid-century publishers of first commissioning engravings for the illustrated periodicals, then soliciting popular writers to contribute literary matter to illustrate the engravings. Ingraham continues: “I trust it...

  11. 6 “Engravings from Original Pictures” COMPETING FOR AUDIENCES AND ORIGINAL ART
    (pp. 119-141)

    In the “Editors’ Table” for the May 1844 of his magazine, Louis Godey features a letter from a reader who complains: “The great objection to the Monthlies of Chestnut Street is their plates. Each has generally thirty-six plates a year—women and children. Now these may be scarce on Chestnut Street, but they are not so here.” This astute reader alludes to the fact that all the major Philadelphia illustrated periodicals emanated from publishing houses located on Chestnut Street, within a stone’s throw of each other, and all run by male editors and publishers (hence the quip about the absence...

  12. 7 “A Mezzotint in Every Number” BATTLING FOR EMBELLISHERS, BATTLING OVER ART
    (pp. 142-159)

    When Godey promised his readers in May 1844 “a mezzotint in every number,” he had at his command all the best artists and engravers working in Philadelphia. Just as the list of American painters featured in his magazine argues for their inclusion in a comprehensive narrative of nineteenth-century American art, Godey’s roll call of mezzotint and line engravers stands out as a who’s who in the graphic arts at mid-century. Godey’s invocation of their names in his editorial spaces indicates that if they were not already, these engravers would soon be household names: John Sartain, Henry S. Sadd, William Warner...

  13. 8 Conclusion THE ASCENDANCY OF NEW YORK, AND MARKET STRATIFICATION
    (pp. 160-168)

    As early as January 1844, George Graham looked nervously to the New York publishing houses. In a January 1844 “Review of New Books” column, he swooned over the “swarm of new works” coming out of the “prolific press of the Harpers” (46). In 1848 Charles Peterson also wondered what the brothers would be up to next. As a new decade dawned, new forms of competition arrived on the art reproduction scene, threatening the supremacy of the Philadelphia pictorials, and one from the very source Graham and Peterson most feared: in June 1850Harper’s New Monthly Magazinemade its debut (Mott,...

  14. Notes
    (pp. 169-202)
  15. Index
    (pp. 203-210)
  16. Color Plates
    (pp. 211-218)