Friday, June 26, 2009

How To Collect Antique Rose Prints

As promised, here are some tips on collecting the old antique prints! I’ve been drawn to old rose prints as long as I can recall, and often refer to their charm as “curb appeal”. As you walk by these beauties, their old, shimmering, imperfect glass beckons you to come closer. Without a doubt, the old cabbage rose prints certainly have a panache that the new prints lack, and they have many outstanding qualities that are not duplicated today. Rose prints fascinated ladies well before the Victorian era, and are just as popular with women today. Garden roses are highly collectible, and are becoming more scarce each day. The shabby chic and romantic cottage themes have pushed these prints to the forefront of collecting, as folks scramble to decorate their homes with a vintage flair. They are the perfect companion not only for the shabby look, but also compliment the elegant d├ęcor and rich patina paints.

Let’s chat about the old COLOR prints, those dating to the late 1890’s. Louis Prang was the first to introduce the process of chromolithography (in 1860), and it was this method that gave prints their color qualities. Prior to that time, prints were hand-colored with watercolor paints. (A good example of this venue can be seen in Godey’s Lady's Book, their dress attire.) In a nutshell, chromolithography required that a single stone be constructed for each color hue. As many as twenty-two stones may have been required to create a single image. Each inked stone was meticulously laid down, one at a time, atop previous color layers. All of the stones had to be in perfect alignment, or register, or the image would appear blurry.

Because of the rich layering of oil-based inks, “chromos” appear as if they have an almost pearly sheen when tilted from side to side. Often the color layers would bleed through to the reverse of the print. Chromolithographs have no equal, they are truly magnificent, not only in their stunning image quality, but also in the time-consuming manner used to create them. It is possible that you may see a print only once in a whole lifetime of collecting, because not all finished proofs went into production.

When examining a chromolithograph, it is best to use a magnifying glass. Peer closely at the color pattern in a light tonal area, and you should see a random pattern of irregular-sized dots. This is the true test to determine a chromo. It is quite easy to see the color layering. Chromolithography was virtually extinct by 1900 when photolithography came into vogue.

Photolithography is the printing process used today. When this pattern is viewed with a magnifying glass, it appears more like a fine grid or mesh, similar to a window screen. Even with a magnifying glass, look closely, as some new prints still have the dots incorporated into the grid pattern. Unfortunately, since photolithography is still in use today, it is difficult to determine if a print is old or new with magnification, other than an examination of the paper used to determine its age.

Are there pitfalls associated with collecting old prints? Of course there are! I have been collecting the old prints for 35 years, so let me share some tips. There are many things to consider, but quality is first and foremost. Blemishes, such as rips, tears, repairs, paper ripples, watermarks, and foxing (paper mold) are unsightly and very common in old prints. Often prints were hung over fireplaces. As you can imagine, the air space between the glass and print got very hot, and when it cooled down, condensation occurred, creating unsightly watermarks.

In the case of the chromolithograph, the oily inks sometimes caused the print to adhere to the glass. When this happens, it is stuck FOREVER. Removing the print results in tidbits of ink popping off the paper and sticking to the glass. One visual indicator might be little spots of darker coloring throughout the print, or white spots where you can see the print has already lifted off the glass. In almost all cases, when the print is taken out of the frame, the print can never be re-aligned perfectly so that the particles line up again. Blemishes in the white margin area of a print can be acceptable, especially if rematting, which would cover the flaws. Some imperfections are easy to notice, and you would think sellers would disclose all problems, but often they don’t see a flaw as a problem area. What is perfect condition to them may not be acceptable in your eyes. RULE NUMBER 1: YOU MUST ASK QUESTIONS. Small photographs can only reveal so much. Even if you cannot see flaws, ask if they are present. All too often I see a print description that says excellent, but alas, it has rips, creases, or it might even be pasted to an old scrapbook page! Photographs can easily hide flaws. Again, ask questions, even if does look great! Look for a reputable dealer, one who has been in the business for many years, someone with experience who is always pleased to thoroughly answer your questions.

Price depends on many factors, such as: condition, rarity, and who is willing to buy it (the “gotta have” syndrome). Keep a price in mind, but if you do pay a higher price, you may want to consider finding a print in very good to fine condition. All too often, buyers find themselves with buyer’s remorse after purchasing a print with a major blemish. Afterwards, their eye always focuses on the specific problem area, and sadly, they find their treasure disappointing and unfulfilling. Just remember, you can always “trade up”, selling your old blemished print when you find one in better condition. Lastly, don’t let “the thrill of the chase” sway your decision!

So how does one arrive at the correct price? This is the age-old question, and keeps getting more complicated every day. The internet is a great place to start. Scour the sites you know sell old prints and see what prices they command. Bear in mind that auction or bidding site prices are subject to holiday fluctuations. Auction houses are also a source, but you MUST ask for additional photos, and ask about blemishes…never take those photos you see for granted. With the introduction of the internet, the grand old rose prints, those in superb condition, are indeed difficult to find—it’s as simple as the rule of supply and demand. Old chromolithographs are becoming scarce, there’s no doubt they are extremely popular. So, when you find a rose print that calls out your name, don’t wait too long to make your purchase, as someone else may come in and buy it right out from underneath you!

I’m often asked “Shall I reframe the print, or leave it as is?” Good question! There are those folks who want everything historically intact, even if the frame is broken down and it’s falling apart. Another school of thought is to reframe the print, conserving it. Either way, it’s personal preference. Most of the old prints from the 1890’s were backed with wooden shingle. Over time, the wood resins leached into the print and caused blemishes, such as brown lines, and knothole burns. At the very least, replace the wooden shingle with a new, acid-free foam core backing. You’ll have peace of mind, and the foam core often flattens down the print so that the waviness disappears. If the frame is deteriorating, at least keep the old glass for your new frame. There is nothing like the old wavy, bubbled, imperfect glass. It truly does dance when you walk by it, reminding you of the old days. If your print doesn’t have the old glass, and you’d prefer it, head on over to your local stained glass shop. Many of them now carry glass that truly mimics the old glass, and it’s quite a beautiful substitute. Flemish and seeded glasses are gorgeous!

One last thought…there are many artists of the late 1890 period who “crossed over”, and their prints were made with both processes, chromolithography and photolithography. An example is the French Victorian watercolorist, Paul de Longpre (b. 1855, d. 1911). It just depends when their prints were produced, in this case, between 1880 and 1911. Because of de Longpre’s popularity, some of his prints were republished in the 1940’s.

In closing, the old rose compositions certainly have that Victorian romantic attraction we all love, and retain their values exceedingly well. Antique rose prints never seem to lose their charm, and are a beautiful addition to the home decor. A good investment?...yes indeed!

Visit this store: Victorian Rose Prints

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Summer Treats in Idaho...

This is definitely my favorite time of year. The snow is long gone, and all the perennials are up. This Nelly Moser clematis is one of my favorites, and is perfect with the wooden bird houses in our yard. We usually have up to 30 nests each Summer, with multiple clutches of finches and bluebirds. The bird feeders are a crowded place these days, and even the magpies stop by to pick up stray peanuts on the ground below. FYI, we don't paint most of our birdhouses, as they seem to prefer them au naturale!

Love those perennials as they just come back from nothing on the bare ground to huge stands of pink echinacea, Black-Eyed Susans, red lupine, and my favorite, bee balm. Great for hummingbirds, and they bring in all sorts of birds. Check out our Mother Robin at the top of a clematis stand in the front yard. She's sitting on some eggs, and they should be hatching any day now.

I've been thinking, what is it that folks would want to see on this blog? How about sending me your ideas, and I'll see if I can include them. One thing I've thought about are some tips on collecting old prints and paintings, that is, what to look for, and more importantly, what to look out for! There are some horror stories out there that I'd hope I can help you avoid when you make your purchases. But questions from you are always helpful, so do send me an email!
Check out these Peruvian daffodils, so fun with their curly petals. Just remember, you can't leave them in the ground where it freezes in the winter, you have to dig and store them.


But, you can have huge beds of tall bearded iris, they survive just about anything, and require almost nothing. Here's some of my "frilly girls", just now blooming out. Stay tuned, antique tips to follow!

Monday, June 8, 2009




Ah, there's nothing quite like graduation! It's a grand affair, and when you take that walk across the stage and receive your diploma, it feels like a million bucks! Check out this photo of an old Victorian lass, big hair bow, pleased as can be...and she should be, as many Victorian ladies did not receive much opportunity towards higher education. That's why it's a good thing for all us gals to celebrate graduations with other ladies we know.


Over on Ruby Lane, I have a really sweet old graduation print from the 1890's, called "The Girl Graduate". Take a sneak peek of it here! Such a sweetie, obviously lost in deep thought, dreaming of her new "life".



Friday, June 5, 2009

Paul de Longpre BOOK

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Ever wondered how an artist came to be? I sure did! And that's why my life's passion was to research the French Victorian watercolorist, Paul de Longpre. After many years of library haunts, I began to see a life pattern emerge. At the same time, I was writing my Master's Degree thesis paper, which is much like a book format. There was no book yet on de Longpre, and that's where I came in...voila! Here it is at long last, a great tale of an astute entrepreneur as well as a exceptional artist. Find it on Ebay.


Yard Long Prints & Paintings

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I do think art on the walls just adds so much to the decor. Try using a yard long over a door, kitchen sink, or entry to welcome folks in... This first one shown is a reproduction, over on Ebay. The second one is on Ruby Lane, and it's a beauty, one of the earliest yard long studies from 1891.





Got Bird?

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Over on Ebay, who can resist a teenie baby robin nestled within a bed of roses? Just too cute, it really looks like the old whitewashed wooden sign...

Oh yeah, you found the right place!

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Oh my! The internet is sure a great source for antiques, now that most of the antique malls are closing. Works for me, as I can sit home and browse on my computer, sitting in my jammies having a cup of java. I can "drive" all over the U.S. without ever leaving home. Yep, it's definitely a plus, and I'm all over it. With 30 years of antique-ing in my veins, I can spot a treasure from across the room, and have a brain chock full of experience that serves me well. Well now, you'll have to visit my Ruby Lane shop for oodles of the oldies in fine paintings and prints. If you're looking for great old art but can't afford the oldies, then cruise on over to my Ebay website for awesome reproductions. Summer is finally on the way here in the Pacific Northwest, and I'm usually out gardening or fly fishing in my leisure hours. Genealogy is another hobby of mine, and I do enjoy the thrill of the hunt for those old family records. I guess that's how I got started on my book, "The Life & Art of Paul de Longpre". Stay tuned...more info to come!