Jessie Willcox Smith illustration for "Dicken's Children" (1912): beautifully framed antique


Jenny Wren – The Little Doll’s Dressmaker
 For Dickens’s Children by the Artist.
    New York. Charles Scribner’s Son. 1912.  

  Image Size: H 9.50” x W 6.75”
    Matted & Framed:  H 15.50” x W 11.75”
    Framed Price: $225.00  
    Packaging and shipping approximately $25.00

Late in the 19th century, artists began using a process called “chromolithography” to colorize their pictures. Artists using this method would lay one ink color on the drawing they had made on lithographic plate. They would then press a page on it. After transferring the first color to the page, the artist would clean the plate, lay a second ink color on, and press the page on it again. Sometimes they would to this more than a dozen times. Ugh!

Laying ink on ink increased tonal depth and image drama. But coloring images this way was time consuming and expensive. Because it diminished contrast, it also produced dim, fuzzy images. Publishers therefore printed relatively few chromolithographs.

Color photography became commercially available early in the 20th century, and after a technique called "color separation" was perfected, which made it commercially feasible to extract the color from a photographic negative and accurately reproduce it on a print surface, publishers abandoned chromolithography in favor of color photography.

JWS’s illustrations for Robert Louis Stevenson’s A Child’s Garden of Verses, which was published by Charles Scribner’s Sons in 1905, used this image reproduction technology. The color in her pictures was bright and fresh, and this highlighted the freshness of her characters and their simple, charming world. Together, these image qualities opened a new age of illustration, “the age of color.” In 1912, JWS used this same technology to create The Children of Charles Dickens. JWS’s artistry was no less brilliant, but because the book appealed to a smaller audience, it failed to achieve the success A Child’s Garden of Verses did. After this disappointment, Scribner focused its “Illustrated Classics” on adventure books for boys.


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