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William Henry Jackson Photochroms On Display

Posted 06.02.17

Collage of photographs and phtochroms from the William Henry Jackson study collection.

Both a photographer and painter, William Henry Jackson is an early American artist whose work primarily documents the American West and Southwest of the late 1800s. He worked at various times for the Union Pacific and Baltimore & Ohio railroads, the 1870s U.S. government survey, the 1871 Hayden Geological Survey, and the World's Transportation Commission.

His subjects range vastly depending on assignment and include vistas of Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons, portraits of Ute leaders, and the homes of verdant California. In 1893, many of his photographs were on display at the World's Columbian Exhibition in Chicago, bringing the fantastic and mythical world of the American frontier into focus for many who would never actually see the landmarks captured in the colloidion process.

Before the advent of color film, photochroms were the best process for the development of color in photography. A highly intensive process, photochroms combine elements of traditional photography and color lithography, applying layers of color to images originally developed in black-and-white. At least four different lithography stones are needed to colorize each image, and sometimes as many of fourteen were employed. Magenta, cyan, yellow and black were base colors, applied in heaver and lighter impressions as needed.

The carefully applied layers of color breathe astonishing life into the photos. Heavily shaded with tones of green and blue, the images show a wide and fertile landscape for American expansion. Jackson's work is built on the basis of manifest destiny, showing both the landscape into which the country would grow, but also the changes already wrought by American industry as railroads cut through scenes and stately homes grow from the groves of California's tropical scenery.

The Decker Library is home to a collection of 187 of Jackson's original prints, many produced by the Detroit Photographic Company. For more information about the William Henry Jackson photochrom collection or to see more prints, visit the Decker Library website or contact our reference desk as refer@mica.edu.

Image Information: 

Thumbnail: A California Orange Tree (51204)
This Page, left to right, top to bottom: Mount of the Holy Cross (0016), Green River Butte c. 1898 (53204), Colorado. A Pioneer Merchant (51050), A Cowboy (51039)

Founded in 1826, Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) is the oldest continuously degree-granting college of art and design in the nation. The College enrolls nearly 3,500 undergraduate, graduate and continuing studies students from 49 states and 65 countries in fine arts, design, electronic media, art education, liberal arts, and professional studies degree and non-credit programs. With art and design programs ranked in the top ten by U.S. News and World Report, MICA is pioneering interdisciplinary approaches to innovation, research, and community and social engagement. Alumni and programming reach around the globe, even as MICA remains a cultural cornerstone in the Baltimore/Washington region, hosting hundreds of exhibitions and events annually by students, faculty and other established artists.

This page was last updated on 06/02/2017.