The Old Print Shop

John Bachmann


John Bachmann (1814–1896) German-speaking Swiss born printmaker, arrived in New York in 1848. He brought with him a fully developed artistic and printing skills, as his earliest works display a high level of competence and command of the medium of lithography. “Bachmann had produced a number of low-altitude views in Paris and Switzerland, including images of the Place de la Concorde and steeple views of Swiss towns in the early 1840s. Bachmann’s prints exemplify an American reinterpretation of the European bird’s-eye view at a moment when American cities, particularly New York, were defining their modern civic identity. In their pastoralism, early nineteenth-century American pictorial views, made primarily in aquatint, served to distance their viewers from the industrialized city and its dangers. Lithographic bird’s-eye views, which emerged in the 1840s, instead celebrated the evolving industrial city and its modern features… Bachmann’s prints graphically depict the evolving visual language, which operates in tandem with the dramatic changes made to the city’s landscape in just two decades. By mid-century, urban city views became the most popular commercially produced type of lithograph, appearing as household decorations or used—as was more likely with Bachmann’s views—for public display in municipal settings, serving decision makers and civic boosters as advertisements of the wonders of urban life. John Bachmann’s prints illustrate an artistic effort to visualize the increasingly unknowable city of New York, which required him to invent new forms of visual argument at a time when the bounded commercial antebellum city was becoming the sprawling metropolis of the postbellum United States.” Hannah Kinney Bachmann concentrated his attention to a few large cities, primarily New York, Philadelphia and Boston. Reps records a total of fifty three printed views being produced. Taken together his work offers a rich example of lithographic view making during the third quarter of the 19th century.