April 5 2013:Sawyer Prints with Jean Davenhall

"Sawyer Prints"

Friday, April 5th 2013
7:00 pm
Goodwin Library
Historical Society Museum

presented by 
Jean Davenhall

Charles H. Sawyer was born on March 24, 1868, probably in Norridgewock, Maine. In the 1890’s, Charles began his art career as a portrait artist, a painter, and then, as a photographer in Providence, RI. He also worked as a pencil artist for the New York Tribune and worked with the well-known Wallace Nutting. Here, Charles Sawyer learned the painting and coloring techniques that would move his black and white photographic art to another level. He created watercolor, pastel, and crayon portraits on commission. Ultimately, however, his fortune and reputation were built on his dramatic American landscapes.

Charles Henry Sawyer
Using watercolor paints, Charles Sawyer began transforming his black and white photographs into images of glowing landscapes. All of Sawyer’s negatives were black and white. Color film was not available during Sawyer most productive phase. From his black and white glass negatives, Sawyer would print black and white photographs, some of which were sold as black and white photographs; or he would develop and print them with a sepia tone; or he could take black and white printed images and hand paint and color them, according to nature's palette.  Sawyer began his studio business in Farmington, ME, but moved to Concord , NH, as he the White Mountains were some of his favorite spots to take the photographs he would eventually colorize.

Charles H. Sawyer hand painted photograph, "Melody".
The sepia-stained images did not sell as well as the hand-colored images. Some sepia photos do show up here.  He also sold a set of greeting cards labeled "Greetings from the White Mountains of New Hampshire," where Echo Lake and Mt. Washington appear.

Until the 1950’s, most of Sawyer’s images were matted; if not, it is likely the image was framed outside the studio by an individual or a company, like Jordan Marsh in Boston, or Wannamakers in Philadelphia, which ordered numbers of images. The earliest mattings, those done while Charles worked out of Farmington, ME, were an off-white originally; but with age, they now appear as wheat-colored. The image itself was usually framed by a separate, thin grey mat, although some from the Farmington era were set on depressed mats also. More often than not, these images were pencil-signed, most likely by Charles himself.

Charles H. Sawyer hand painted photograph, "Ammonoosuc Falls".
Later images of the 1920s -1930s were matted with the image centered on a rectangular depressed area. Most of these are ink-signed and titled in a neat, graceful script. About this same time period and continuing for subsequent years, finished images appeared matted on the off-white paper, but centered on a pre-printed brown border. The miniature brown-bordered mattings were the same size as the greeting cards and, in most cases, exactly the same except for the printed "Season's Greetings" etc. A few images also have been found with a gold paper border or a separate brown matting. Generally speaking, those with separate gold or brown borders around the image date the image most likely in the early 1930’s.  After Sawyer's death in 1954, his son Harold continued to run the business.  The studio and business was closed after Harold's death, as his children had no interest in continuing the tradition.

 -  "The Hand-Painted Photographs of Charles Henry Sawyer", written by Carol Begley Gray, Michael Ivankovich and John Peters.

Jean brought some of her collection of Sawyer prints to the presentation.
 Sawyer colorized photographs from Jean's collection were on display at the presentation..

A video of Jean's presentation will be available for viewing shortly. Refreshments were served following the presentation.
A Historical Society Business meeting was held afterward.

Learn More

A Sawyer Image - A Thing of Beauty   http://www.thegavel.net/sawyer.html
A Lifetime of Devotion Crosses the Block   http://www.thegavel.net/Seplead1.html
The Hand-Painted Photographs of Charles Henry Sawyer, Carol Begley Gray, Michael Ivankovich, John Peters,  Second Edition, Treasure Press, 2002

Image Credits:
Farmington Historical Society collection.

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