Moonlight in Egypt (1879).

EXOTIC BUCOLIC. Imagery from the mass colour explosion & fantasy popular landscape painting boom of the 1800s.

Venice. Pride of the sea. (1877). Unknown artist, unknown printer.

The advent of colour lithography in America allowed artists to bring colour, and colourful art to the 19th century American masses. It also meant artists could bring them exotic foreign destinations. Even if they had to make them up.

Many chromolithographs were extraordinarily complex to print, some requiring 20 or more limestone slabs to create a richly coloured and dynamically sophisticated image. The idea was to duplicate the feeling of watercolors or more often, oil paintings. For the first time, art was no longer just for rich folks. This meant millions of middle class families could afford to hang “art” in their homes. This helped artists to earn significantly more income than they could from selling just single originals. As an artist overseas, you could romanticise your destination to your hearts content, and export your vision to America with impunity.

Many artists used chromolithography to create prints that closely followed their artistic vision, i.e. their imagination.

Amongst the most popular subject matter was American landscapes. Not just any old landscape but idealised landscapes with an glorified, almost holy, dream-like aspect to them. This is what people wanted and what sold. So artists gave it to them. Not satisfied with bringing a fantasy America to Americans, many artists used artistic licence. They began creating an overseas fantasy world too. They painted landscapes of foreign destinations from existing reference and allowed their imagination to fill in the gaps.

“Morning in the tropics” (1880).
Moonlight on the Rhine (1883).
Moonlight scene on the Nile (1875).
L’Orient (1876).
Passau in the Danube (1877).
Overlook of the coastal city, Naples (1889).
Norman Castle (1871).
The Acropolis from the West. Vienna (1910).
Moonlight in Egypt (1879).
Obersee near Berchetsgarden (1873).
Ruins on the Nile (1871).

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