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Soul of the Chrysanthemum

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Soul of the Chrysanthemum

Artist: Elihu Vedder (American, 1836-1923; active Italy after 1856)

and/or: Anita H. Vedder (American, 1873-1954; active Italy)

Date: after 1894
Medium: Crayon, graphite, and metallic paint over a "Bromide Phototype," in an original mount
Dimensions:
Overall: 10 1/2in. (26.7cm)
Framed: 24 x 18in. (61 x 45.7cm)
Signed:
Inscribed: Recto, lower left (black crayon): "Copyright 1894 by E. Vedder" Bottom left (gold metallic paint): "18V92" Verso, at the top of a brown paper liner (graphite): "Type not [for] sale.../ Soul of the Chr;ysanthemum / 1894 / $300.00" Bottom (graphite): "24" On a label (missing): "Barse--April 3, 1937 #34"
Credit Line: Gift of the American Academy of Arts and Letters
Object number: 55.32
Label Text
In 1892 Vedder sold a picture he listed in his sales book merely as "Chrysanthemum (head)." This work was probably the source for a collotype the artist copyrighted two years later. The MWPAI work is a hand-colored version of this mechanical reproduction. Many years earlier, in 1868, Vedder made a drawing, "Soul of the Sunflower," that is the compositional antecedent for the "Soul of the Chrysanthemum." In conventional Victorian-era flower symbolism, a yellow chrysanthemum signifies slighted love, jealousy, and disdain. The mythological nymph Clytie experienced these feelings when she was deserted by Apollo and transformed into a sunflower because of her fidelity to him.

Since at least 1880 Vedder sold photographic reproductions of his works. These transactions were managed by his wife, who urged him to hand-color them. "Some of the crowd of visitors who come to the studio may purchase originally colored reproductions," she reasoned, "even if oil paintings are too expensive for them." Although Vedder considered this type of activity "honest but undignified," he was grateful for the income it provided. Several other American artists of his generation did the same thing. In the early 1880s John La Farge (1835-1910) used photomechanical reproductions of his drawings and engravings as the basis for new works. Thomas Moran (1837-1926) and Edward L. Henry (1841-1919) also embellished photographs of their works.

Vedder may have been assisted coloring photographs of his works by his daughter Anita. The Vedder scholar Regina Soria has argued that if she colored the MWPAI work by herself, it can only be considered part of Vedder's authentic oeuvre if she did so while her father was alive. Although there is no information to indicate when she or her father colored the MWPAI work, it seems probable that it was done during the artist's lifetime, considering the large number of autographic drawings and paintings by her father that Anita inherited when he died and the relatively low market value of the colored photographs, which would have discouraged the production of any more.

Paul D. Schweizer

Text Entries

In 1892 Vedder sold a picture he listed in his sales book merely as “Chrysanthemum (head) .”(2) This work was probably the source for a collotype the artist copyrighted two years later. The MWPI work is a hand—colored version of this photograph.(3) Many years earlier, in 1868, Vedder made a drawing, Soul of the Sunflower, that is the compositional antecedent for the Soul of the Chrysanthemum.(4) In conventional Victorian-era flower symbolism, a yellow chrysanthemum signifies slighted love, jealousy, and disdain.(5) The mythological nymph Clytie experienced these feelings when she was deserted by Apollo and transformed into a sunflower because of her fidelity to him.(6)

Since at least 1880 Vedder sold photographs of his works.(7) These transactions were managed by his wife, who urged him to hand-color these reproductions. “Some of the crowd of visitors who come to the studio may purchase originally colored reproductions,” she reasoned, “even if oil paintings are too expensive for them.”(8) Although Vedder considered this type of activity “honest but undignified,” he was grateful for the income it provided.(9) Several other American artists of his generation  did the same thing. In the early 18805 John La Farge used photomechanical reproductions of his drawings and engravings as the basis for new works. Thomas Moran and Edward L. Henry also embellished photographs.(10)

In coloring photographs of his works, Vedder may have been assisted by his daughter Anita. Regina Soria has contended that if she colored the MWPI work by herself, it can only be considered part of Vedder’s authentic oeuvre if she did so while her father was alive.(11) There is no information to indicate when she or her father colored the MWPI work, but it seems probable that it was done during the artist’s lifetime, considering the large number of drawings and paintings Anita inherited when her father died and the relatively low market value of the colored photographs, which would have discouraged the production of any more.(12)

PDS

1. Reproductions of Works by Elihu Vedder (n. p., n. d.), [3]; in Vedder Papers, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., microfilm 529, frame 436.

2. Elihu Vedder, The Digressions of V (Boston and New York: Houghton Mifilin Company, 1910), 489. This unlocated work is listed in Soria, Elihu Vedder, 340, cat. no. 485, as an “Oil on canvas?"

3. Another version, with a handwritten inscription in the lower right corner, “Vedder Proof," was owned by J. Daniel Selig in 1975. A photograph of this version is in the curatorial files, Munson-Williams-Proctor Institute.

4. Soria, Vedder, ill. 8.

5. Kathleen M. Gips, The Language of Flowers: A Book of Victorian Sentiments (Chagrin Falls, Ohio: Pine Creek Press, 1990), 62. For the popularity of the chrysanthemum in later-nineteenth-century American art, see Ella M. Foshay, Reflections of Nature: Flowers in American Art (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1984), 107.

6. The Metamorphoses of Ovid, trans. and with an intro. by Mary M. Innes (Harmondsworth, England: Penguin Books, 1955), 99-101.

7. Soria, Vedder, 143.

8. Soria, Vedder, 202. For Mrs. Vedder’s involvement in the sale of these works, see Reproductions of Works by Elihu Vedder,

9. Vedder, Digressions, 494.

10. James L. Yarnall, “New Insights on John La Farge and Photography,” The American Art Journal 19 (1987): 52-79. Fritiof Fryxell, ed., Thomas Moran: Explorer in Search of Beauty (New York: East Hampton Free Library, 1958), 29-31. Elizabeth McCausland, The Life and Work of Edward Lamson Henry, N./1., 1841-1919 (Albany: New York State Museum, 1945), 59-61.

11. Regina Soria telephone conversation with author, August 24, 1983.

12. In 1888 Vedder sold these reproductions for thirty dollars apiece, and in 1900 for seventy-five dollars; see Soria, Vedder, 202, 226. The inscription on the back of the MWPI work suggests that in 1937 it was valued at three hundred dollars.

 

Copyright
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