By Elizabeth Prata
Today was a hot, hot, hot summer day in Georgia. I had a sweet morning of listening to Gaithers on Youtube, I do love a Southern Gospel quartet! Lead Me Gently Home, He Will Remember Me and other oldies just lift my heart and make me smile big. Later I went to Kroger plaza to meet someone for lunch and then grocery shop. I passed horses swishing their tails against the annoying summer flies buzzing in the heat. I saw wayside crosses on lawns or in driveways, and I love that about this place. I saw gardens in full bloom, fenced and unfenced. Puffy summer clouds white as snow that I knew later would turn grey with thunder passed overhead. Ahhh, summer…
There’s nothing like moving from apartment to apartment for reminding you of how much stuff you have! My old apartment was only 425 sf but I still needed 80 boxes from U-Haul to pack it all up. The majority of my things was comprised of books, and art.
As I lovingly packed my art, I decided to do a series on the things that adorn my walls. I have a number of interesting pieces that I became re-acquainted with as I wrapped them. I’ve had some of these since starting my art collection 50 years ago. Each art item I have is thoughtfully considered and proudly acquired. They have meaning for me, aesthetically, emotionally, and artistically.
The very first piece I ever bought was a hand-colored photo from the turn of the 20th century signed by Fred Thompson. There was a white elephant sale in a damp church basement. I was about ten. I knew immediately I had to have it.
I had a poor home life and a vivid imagination, so when I spotted the photograph, I immediately envisioned myself there as my mental getaway. I used to stare at it and just about feel the refreshing air of the cool grass and bubbling brook. I wanted to lie in the lush grass and dip my feet in the water and relax and… just be.
It’s called “Fernbank” and it’s a hand-tinted photo from between 1908 – 1923 by a photographer active in Maine called Fred Thompson. Fred senior was friends with Wallace Nutting, one of three other hand-tinted photographers active and famous at the time. Nutting is considered the father of hand-tinted photography. Fred Sr died in 1909. His son took over his photo business which was located in Portland and continued until 1923, when Fred Junior passed away too.
The piece is titled on the left under the picture and the distinctive art nouveau style signature is on the right. The Fred Thompson photos are fairly abundant, they do not have a high worth. I see them going for maybe $35-50 on ebay and other auction sites. The worth to me is the peace I felt while gazing at it.
Wikipedia has a synopsis of hand-tinted photography at this period:
The so-called golden age of hand-coloured photography in the western hemisphere occurred between 1900 and 1940. The increased demand for hand-coloured landscape photography at the beginning of the 20th century is attributed to the work of Wallace Nutting. Nutting, a New England minister, pursued hand-coloured landscape photography as a hobby until 1904, when he opened a professional studio. He spent the next 35 years creating hand-coloured photographs, and became the best-selling hand-coloured photographer of all time.
Between 1915 and 1925 hand-coloured photographs were popular among the middle classes in the United States, Canada, Bermuda and the Bahamas as affordable and stylish wedding gifts, shower gifts, holiday gifts, friendship gifts, and vacation souvenirs. With the start of the Great Depression in 1929, and the subsequent decrease in the numbers of the middle class, sales of hand-coloured photographs sharply diminished
Art is personal. You never know which piece will move you, puzzle you, anger you, in some way make you feel. I was grateful for my little picture all through my coming up years, and 20s and 30s and on to this day. It hangs over my bureau in my bedroom. Fifty years later I still love it.