Tuesday, June 9, 2015

52 Ancestors No.22: The Art of Colorizing Photographs

This is my twenty-second of 52 blog posts for the 2015 edition of the 52 Ancestors challenge. I have been blogging my family history for the #52Ancestors challenge since it began in 2014.

#52Ancestors asks bloggers to "have one blog post each week devoted to a specific ancestor. It could be a story, a biography, a photograph, an outline of a research problem — anything that focuses on one ancestor. 

My No. 22 post is about the beautiful photograph below that was taken of my grandmother Rhea Coughlin (1902-1992) by Northland Studio.

Original Photo
Rhea Coughlin (1902-1992)
According to the Directory of Early Michigan Photographers by David V. Tinder, Northland Studios was located in Detroit as early as 1913-1915. 
I believe this photograph of Rhea to have been taken some time before 1920.

The photograph was also colorized by Northland studio.
The results are stunning

Colorized Photo
Rhea Coughlin (1902-1992)

I consulted "Transparent Liquid Water Colors for Coloring Photographs" (p.101)  Crayon Portraiture Complete Instructions for Making Crayon Portraits on Crayon Paper and on Platinum, Silver and Bromide Enlargements  Author: Jerome A. Barhydt and found the following:


"Fill the two tumblers with water, and have all the other materials ready and convenient to work with. If you have selected a burnished and mounted photograph wet its surface with saliva; unburnished photographs, photogravures and engravings do not require this treatment, but in coloring them it will be necessary to mix a weak solution of gum arabic with the colors to prevent their penetrating the paper. If printed on too thin a paper the photogravure or engraving should be mounted. If it is found that the colors "crawl" or spread on the photograph, mix a little acetic acid with the colors you are using, and should this fail to remove the difficulty, rub a pinch of pumice stone over the photograph with the fingers. "

 "If the photograph is a portrait commence with the background, washing it all over with a brushful of diluted color, being careful not to get any on the face. If the background is light, use a weak solution of blue, if dark, a brown solution. The majority of backgrounds only need a very little tinting—just sufficient to change the color. For the face use flesh color, diluting it to the proper shade, washing it entirely over the face, and with a stronger solution of the same color tint the cheeks and lips, giving them a little brighter effect than the flesh color. Touch up the shadows in the face with the brown, and if there are any reflected lights use a very weak solution of the yellow color for them; then with some very weak black make the shadows around the mouth a little darker; next with a solution of blue, also very weak, strengthen the shadows in the forehead and around the temples; then color the eyes, using a small brush. If they are blue, use a weak solution of blue, if gray, use a little black, and if brown, then that color. Next color the hair; if brown, use brown mixed with a little black to take away the reddish color; if auburn, use brown and yellow, with a little gray between the lights and shadows. In working on the hair, move your brush in the direction of the lines of the hair; if wavy, then cause your brush to follow its lines. After you have thus gone over it, darken the shadows with a stronger solution of the same color. After the hair, paint the eyebrows and beard, if there is any, with the same color."


 "Those who are disposed to treat disdainfully the work of finishing photographs in crayon and color as not demanding truly artistic qualities, should not forget that success here has still a real value in awakening in many who undertake it a feeling for art of a higher kind, and in developing a natural talent which otherwise might have been undiscovered. Many an artist now looks back with pleasure and gratitude to this sort of work, in which he received the first impetus toward higher effort."

 "In answer to the assertion which is sometimes made that transparent water colors are not permanent, I claim that in the sense in which the word is ordinarily used in connection[Pg 132] with photography they may properly be called so. In this sense the lasting qualities which characterize the materials used by the old masters are not looked for, but where photographs have been thus colored, finished in the form of French crystals, and properly sealed from the atmosphere, they are practically permanent. I have some in my possession that were made years ago, and they are as bright and fresh to-day as when first colored. It can be truly said that photographs colored in this way make very beautiful and pleasing pictures, obtainable with but little work and expense, and having practical permanency of color."

 "As a final word to those who intend to follow art as a profession, I urge the earnest study and mastery of drawing at the outset as the foundation of all art; then take up work in body water colors, and when the theory of coloring is fully understood, do not neglect the careful reading of books of acknowledged merit bearing on your work. The more notes you take in the course of your reading the more fully you will assimilate the author's thought, while, at the same time, you furnish the easiest means of rapid review. After all, your soundest basis for work will be your deep and continuing love for it, and your willingness to labor long and conscientiously to attain excellence. Do not imagine that the profession of an artist is that of an[Pg 133] idler. On the contrary, of all occupations it is perhaps the most active, for one is constantly engaged, if not with art itself, at least with its materials."

 "Every artist will confess that were it not for the charm with which it rewards the votaries who follow it from love, the pursuit would be a painful one, such vigilant precaution does it require, such constant foresight, such calculation and preparation against possible difficulty on every hand; but the true artist, happy in the daily gain of knowledge which his experience brings him, and delighted with the gradual mastery of his work, as a rule lives along enjoyably, retaining more than most men the freshness of youth while he gains in power as he advances in years. So pleasant a fate as this for each of his readers is the closing wish of the author."

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