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Charles Sawyer

 (1868 - 1954)
Charles Henry Sawyer was active/lived in Rhode Island, Maine.  Charles Sawyer is known for hand-colored pictorial landscape photographs.

Charles Sawyer

Biography from the Archives of askART

The following is from Peter Kostoulakos, AOA, NEAA:  Fine Art Consultant,

Charles Henry Sawyer (1868-1954)

Charles Henry Sawyer was in the business of producing hand-colored photographs.  He was in direct competition with his peer and former employer, Wallace Nutting.  Sawyer created beautiful scenic hand-painted photographic landscapes for the tourist trade. These small, colorful pictures were like the postcards of today.  Travelers would bring them home for their own memories or give them to friends and family to decorate their walls.  Most of his scenes are of New Hampshire, but he also produced pieces depicting Maine, and the Monterey Coast.

He was a pictorialist who used the photographic process to capture beauty more than to pursue a scientific endeavor.  Pictorialism, as defined by The Free Dictionary, is the name given to a photographic movement in vogue from around 1885 following the widespread introduction of the dry-plate process.  It reached its height in the early years of the 20th century, and declined rapidly after 1914 after the widespread emergence of Modernism. The terms "Pictorialism" and "Pictorialist" entered common use only after 1900. Pictorialism largely subscribed to the idea that art photography needed to emulate the painting and etching of the time.  Most of these pictures were black & white or sepia-toned.  Among the methods used were soft focus, special filters and lens coatings, heavy manipulation in the darkroom, and exotic printing processes.  From 1898 rough-surface printing papers were added to the repertoire, to further break up a picture's sharpness. Some artists "etched" the surface of their prints using fine needles.  The aim of such techniques was to achieve what the 1911 Encyclop√¶dia Britannica termed, in discussing Pictorialism, "personal artistic expression."

According to author Marion Manion, these hand-painted photos can fool the eye into thinking they are painted directly on a flat, blank board.  Sometimes a silvery shadow at the edges is a telltale sign of the oxidation that can occur with old black and white photographs.  Sawyer's work was printed on cotton stock and adhered to a board before it was framed so, without the oxidized silvery shadow, they first appear to be painted directly on the board.  Each hand-colored print is a unique, original work by a very skilled artist.

Sawyer resided in Providence, Rhode Island in 1902; Norridgewock, Maine in 1903; Farmington, Maine from 1904-1920; and Concord, New Hampshire from 1920 on.  Before starting his own picture business, Sawyer worked for the very successful Wallace Nutting Studio around 1902 to 1903. Originally he located his studio in Farmington, Maine, but in order to be closer to the picturesque White Mountains, he then located the Sawyer Picture Company in Concord, NH where it thrived from around 1920 to the 1970s - well beyond Sawyer's death.

References: Who Was Who in American Art, 1999, page 2930; Davenport's Art Reference, 2006/2007Edition, page 1910; The Free Dictionary: Marion Manion, "Art Markets: Hand-painted photo art can fool the eye."

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About  Charles Sawyer

Born:  1868
Died:   1954
Known for:  hand-colored pictorial landscape photographs