[Untitled] Life size portrait of Columbia.

Chromolithograph, c.1893.
Three sheets, joined. Image 73 1/2 x 36 1/2" plus margins. Overall framed size, 80 x 44"
Good condition and color. Some repairs in the upper left corners and occasional repaired tear.
LOCATION: New York City

Inventory Number: 96454
Price: $15,000.00
Publisher : Published by Kurz & Allison Art Studio, Chicago.
A mammoth and spectacular chromolithographic poster of Columbia, likely prepared for the 1893 Columbian Exposition held in Chicago.

The portrait depicts a full-length Columbia in a white chiton and blue cape, wearing a crown of stars and a liberty cap. Her right hand rests on a sword and a laurel wreath, while her left holds upright a shield emblazoned with the stars and stripes and bearing the word “Liberty.” As demonstrated by the image at left, the poster is enormous and an absolute showstopper.

Columbia is known as the goddess of the United States, comparable to the British Britannia and the French Marianne. The image of Columbia was never fixed, often presented as a woman between youth and middle age, wearing classically draped garments decorated with the stars and stripes; one popular version gave her a red-and-white striped dress and a blue blouse, shawl, or sash spangled with white stars. Her headdress varied; sometimes it included feathers reminiscent of a Native American headdress, sometimes it was a laurel wreath, but often, as shown here, she wears a liberty cap.

The poster bears no date or title, but the subject matter and Kurz & Allison imprint strongly suggest it was produced on the occasion of the 1893 Columbia Exposition, even perhaps for display on the grounds. The Exposition, also called the Chicago World’s Fair, was a pivotal moment in the history of the United States. During its six-month run, nearly 27,000,000 people attended, at the time roughly half the population of the United States. Its numerous displays and exhibits established conventions for architecture, design, and decorative arts, in addition to helping catalyze a new era of American industrial optimism.

Louis Kurz (1835-1921) and Andrew Allison established their partnership in Chicago in 1880, with the mission of producing prints “for large scale establishments of all kinds, and in originating and placing on the market artistic and fancy prints of the most elaborate workmanship.” They made their name with a series of 36 large-format prints of Civil War battle scenes, which were (and are) notable more for their colorful drama than historical accuracy. They also published portraits of famous Americans, scenes of disasters such as the Johnstown Flood and the 1896 St. Louis tornado , and prints of religious subjects. In America on Stone, Peters offers an idiosyncratic tribute to the partnership :

“It seems to me that this firm had the real news sense and lithographic touch, though I have not seen much of their work. The Lincoln one showing the house, horse, high hat and all, seems to express the very spirit of lithography. Also the Johnstown Flood print, for pure, wild, unadulterated American lithography running wild, seems a triumph. Note the lady escaping on the horse in her nightgown, without saddle, yet not deigning to throw her other leg over the horse—that’s the true spirit; the printmakers were always gentlemen at any cost.” (pp. 259-260)Framed.
18th-19th Century Subjects , Historical