The Old Violin. Chromolithographic proof. Covington, Kentucky: Donaldson Art Sign Co., 1887.
The Society has been working to build the portion of the print collection which focuses on the dissemination of fine art in the United States, adding engravings and lithographs after famous or popular American paintings. The prints were then sold to the emerging middle class from 1840 to 1890, spreading images across the country. This beautiful chromolithograph was published in Kentucky in 1887 after a trompe l’oeil painting by William Hartnett. According to the National Gallery of Art, which owns the original painting, “The public was fascinated by The Old Violin…People would reach out to touch the violin or try to grasp the envelope to determine if the objects were real or painted. Thanks to a widely distributed chromolithograph, The Old Violin would become an icon of American art.” This copy is actually a proof printing of the chromolithograph, and is unusual in that it has not been trimmed to the margin and retains the series of color bars that guided the printer. The acquisition therefore addresses both our interest in the dissemination of fine art and the Society’s focus on the history of printing processes in America.