Thursday, January 21, 2010

E.C. Middleton's chromolithographed portraits

Elijah C. Middleton is widely regarded as one of the pioneers of chromolithography in America. Establishing his engraving firm in Cincinnati at mid-nineteenth-century, Middleton's business benefited from the city's prime location along routes of westward migration. As the city grew, so did a market for printed material - including chromolithographs. Middleton and his partner, W.R. Wallace, ventured from engraving into chromolithography and produced the oldest surviving chromolithograph from Cincinnati (an 1852 certificate for a Cincinnati fire company). Their partnership became the basis for chromo-publishing giant Strobridge & Company, which competed with Ehrgott & Forbiger for prominence in the Cincinnati and Midwestern print markets.


Shortly after Hines Strobridge joined Middleton and Wallace in partnership, Middleton struck out on his own in 1861 as a "Portrait Publisher," advertising his own gallery of printed portraits made with "warranted oil-colors." His finely-rendered portrait of George Washington became an early icon in the world of chromolithography and gained attention as far away as Philadelphia, where lithography giant P.S. Duval commented on Middleton as a competitor.

Middleton did portraits of George and Martha Washington, after paintings by Gilbert Stuart, as well as those of contemporary figures such as Daniel Webster, U.S. Grant, and Henry Clay. Desiring an accurate representation of Abraham Lincoln, Middleton actually solicited the President's advice, sending a proof copy of the print and receiving in return a letter from Lincoln with both compliment and critique. The resulting portrait is the only instance in which Lincoln is known to have advised the artist for one of his portraits. The Lincoln print was popular enough that it was reissued by Thomas Bising and Herman Gerlach when they took over Middleton's firm around 1867, advertising themselves as his successors.

11 comments:

  1. dadteubert@netscape.netOctober 31, 2011 at 11:54 AM

    i have both George and Martha Washinton framed pic by Middleton, dated 1861

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I also own both.They are a fine piece of american history.Both of mine are all in tact.The backs are in mint condition.

      Delete
    2. I have Middleton pics of both Washington and Lincoln in the original oval frames

      Delete
  2. We are a resale shop and have also just received George and Martha framed "Warranted Oil Colors Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1861, by EC Middleton" any thoughts on price to sell? manager@economyshop.org

    ReplyDelete
  3. I have a print in oil colors by E.C. Middleton of Daniel Webster 1865 with the stamp of congress 1865. Have no clue how to sell or how much to ask for it.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I recently purchased a print in oil colors by E.C. Middleton & Co. dated 1866 that appears to be a portrait of a Minister or Judge. Where can I find a listing or catalog of Middleton's work to identify the subject of the portrait.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. There is no listing I am aware of. Sorry.

      Delete
    2. We have a Middleton portrait that may match the one you're describing. If you'd like to see a photo of ours, please email us at archives@asbury.edu. We can respond after New Year's.

      Delete
  5. We have a portrait by E.C. Middleton of U.S. Grant in uniform that is in oil colors in 1884. Original frame in glass. Any idea on value?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This blog is not really the place for us to discuss values, but all the Middleton prints, if in good shape, have some moderate value.

      Delete
    2. I Have a Abraham Lincoln and Ulysses Grant. Was looking to sell, but don't know the value.??

      Delete