Photographic Painting and Tinting


Figure 1.--This painted photograph is clearly based on a photograph. We are not entirely sure about the actial process. We see them dome both as charcoals and as paintings. This example is more skillfully done than many we have seen. The boy is unidentified. We know it is American and would guess that it was painted in the 1860s. The colored stock and the size of the collar suggest to us the late 1860s or perhaps the early 70s.

Photograpy provided a way for even modest income people to obtain family portraits. Photographers replaced many portrait paintes, especially those of limited skills. One disadvantage to photographic portraits, however, was they they were black and white. Painted portraits had the advantage of color. Inventors and chemists began working on color photography from a very early stage. Practical color photography did not appear until the 20th century. In the meantime we note as early as the 1850s, artists touching up Daguerotype portraits. Hand painted cabinent cards appeared, but were nit very common. Later in the 1860s we notice some artists virtually painting over photographs. This practice continued into the early 20th century. We have little information on this process. We note several examples of this, but it does not seem to have been very popular. This may have been that even though the process added color, it often masked many of the details of the photograph. The painters doing this for the most part had limited artistic skills. We assume that this was also done in other countries, however, all of our examples at this time are American.

Family Portraits

Photograpy provided a way for even modest income people to obtain family portraits. Until the mid-19th century, portrits were painted. By the 1850s there were more photographs than pintings and the depictions were more accurate. Every family wanted portraits. This took different forms. Some times priority was given to the pastriasrchs. In otherer families more priority was given to the children. Photographers replaced many portrait paintes, especially those of limited skills. One disadvantage to photographic portraits, however, was they they were black and white. Painted portraits had the advantage of color. The family portraits offer wonderful insights into the various historical eras, especially the portrits in which the entire family is depicted.

Color Photography

Inventors and chemists began working on color photography from a very early stage. Practical color photography did not appear until the 20th century. Color photographic processes were developed in the late 19th century, but black and white photography dominated for the first half of the 20th century. Commercial color photography appeared in the 1930s, but it was expensive and the dyes unstable. Some color negatives my father took in the 1940s had faded beyond use by the 1950s. Color snap shots did not become common until the 1960s. Kodak invented the Instamatic camera in 1963, and began the mass marketing of color film. Until then, virtually all photographs had been in black and white. In the early 1970s, sales of color film outstripped black and white and today it accounts for all but a tiny percentage of the film sold throughout the world. Families are now finding that photographs taken as recently as 30 years ago are already fading in the nation's family albums. The future clearly ;ays wsith the digital camera. Color film eas still used for the vast majority of the photographs taken around the world and the ability to take photographs with a simple camera still appeals to many. In the 2000s photograohy shifted to digital issues, although film is still used. This balance varied from country to country.

Charcoal Drawing Photo Portrait

Charcoal notice charcoal drawings that are obviously based on a photograph. We have seen a number of these over the years. We are not sure of the process done to achieve the end result. Hopefully a HBC reader will know something about the process. There may have been an original portrait printed on a medium. Then charcoal was applied to augment the image. Unlike a photograph, a charcoal could be done in much larger sizes. We think that the principle was that an actual drawing was more of an art work than a photograph. Photography was seen as more of a mechancical process than art. So even a deawing basecd on a photograph was more of a piece of art. The end result to us seems less appealing than either a photographic portrait or a drawing. But apparentlysome custimers during the Victorian era liked them. Not all studios offered this service, but even those which did not could send orders to services that did. All they had to do was to send along a photographic portrait on which the charcoal would be based.

Color Tinting

Long before commercial color photography was available, we note as early as the 1850s, artists touching up Daguerotype portraits. Usually the Daguerotype tinting was minor such as adding rosy cheeks or gold in jewelry. We have, however, found some more elaborately tinted dags. Hand painted cabinent cards appeared, but were not very common. At least we have noted reatively few examples in the photographic records. We think that it was more commn to color tint cabinents cards than the smaller CDVs. We also notice larger prints that were colorized. We do not know much about the process. We assumed that water colors were bushed on. Some photographs had only minor color added, sych as rosy cheeks. Other photographs were so effectively done that they look close to color photographs. The whole process is one we have not yet researched. There are, however, several color tinted photographs archived on HBC. Some of the best examples we have noted are German. We note German costumes, presumably children in a family. We also note a German mother and daughter. Another example is a German brother and sister (about 1885). And we see a beautifully done portrait of a German family (1890s). Another good example is an 19th century American family. The colors look plausible in these photgraphs, but we are not sure how the color information was conveyed to the painter who would have done his or her work long after the sbjects had left the studio. This same color tinting or painting process was also used n a much larger scale to produce commercial postcards. Here the colors applied often had nothing to do with the colors of the clothes the children wore.

Painted-over Photogaphs

Later in the 1860s we notice some artists virtually painting over photographs. Here we are sometimes unsure if it is a painted over photograph or perhaps a painted executed from a photographic portrait. Or even a painted portrait done in the style of a photographic portrait. This practice continued into the early 20th century. We have little information on this process. We note several examples of this, but it does not seem to have been very popular. This may have been that even though the process added color, it often masked many of the details of the photograph. The painters doing this for the most part had limited artistic skills. We assume that this was also done in other countries, however, all of our examples at this time are American.

Painted-under Photographs

Here is an item that we have not noted to any extent in the photographic record. We are not even sure what to call it. It is a a heavy glass plate photograph of an unidentified boy of 57 years of age. I think it is essentially alarge ambrotype. Or perhaps it is a fully developed positive. What is different is that rather than using a black case background, the plate has been painted on the back in full colors sand great detail. It looks like he was wearing a green suit. The boy is shown sitting on classic Victorian upholstered chair. What we are not sure about is how a glass plate like this would have been displayed in the home. Perhaps readers will know nore about this type of photgraphic portrait.

Photograph-like Painted Portraits

We notice paintings now being done with a phographic look. Presumably photography has conditioned the public for this look. Many of these pasintings are done from photographs rather than sittings. We note these studio portraits in America, but presume the same occurs in other countries as well.






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Created: March 18, 2004
Last updated: 12:28 AM 11/10/2009