BULLETIN 10/28/16: The original of this Paul de Longpre painting is for sale. Impeccable provenance…it is still in the hands of the Park family. If you are interested in discussing possible purchase with a member of the Park family, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you.
First off, I don’t want you to think that the title is a grammatical error. When I refer to “Chrysanthemums”, I’m referring to a single painting which I have entitled “Chrysanthemums” as I don’t know the actual title to the painting (if there is one). This is the painting: I’ve had an original lithograph of this painting for decades and have always considered it special, and as such, have carefully stored it away. I have considered selling it at my Etsy shop but have hesitated due to my lack of knowledge with regard to its history as well as my concern over condition issues such as flocking and some tears along the edges. I recently took another look at it and decided to do some research. There is an artist signature: When I read the signature, I read “Paul de Songpie”. What a strange name, I thought, and did a Google search. The first thing to come up was a forum in which a woman was asking about Paul de Songpie paintings. Just finding this name was encouraging and I continued to read down the various comments in the forum. Someone advised that the name isn’t “Songpie” but instead “Longpre”. The artist’s name was “Paul de Longpre”. Well, I thought to myself, that was a bit of luck coming across this forum and finding the correct name as I could have been searching “Songpie” forever and have found nothing! So I searched the correct name and found a good amount of information, as this artist was quite famous. Paul De Longpre was born in Lyon, France in 1855. He began drawing flowers as a young child and by age 12 was earning a living painting flowers on fans for a Paris firm. By the age of 21 he exhibited his work at the Paris Salon and was well known in Paris before immigrating to New York City in 1890. After a successful exhibition in 1896 he gained international reputation and financial freedom. He and his family moved to Los Angeles in 1898 and built a beautiful Moorish/Mission style mansion which became a tourist attraction. His three acre garden held 4,000 rose bushes from which he derived much of his subject matter. He has a street named after him as well as a park. And he was a prolific painter. Amazing story, really. Started earning a living at 12 and became a very wealthy and well known artist as a young man. The internet was full of images of his art work which was reproduced as postcards, prints, jewelry and more. But none of the images that I found were identical to my lithograph. I needed to do more research. The lower left corner had the following clue: My family was in the grain wholesale business from the late 19th Century on, so perhaps this was a salesman’s sample or part of a Park Seed calendar. My litho measures 15 inches by 17 inches, so it would have been a very large calendar. Or maybe it was a premium? I searched “Painted and Printed for Park’s Floral Magazine, Libonia, PA.” and absolutely nothing came up. Hmmm…. So I searched just “Park’s Floral Magazine” and found the following (from the Park Seed website). “One of America’s oldest and largest mail-order seed and plant companies, the Geo. W. Park Seed Company, was founded in 1868 by 15-year-old George W. Park in Libonia, Pennsylvania. Deciding to sell seeds he had harvested from his backyard garden, young George bought a hand press and printed a list of the seeds that he wanted to sell. In addition to circulating this list to friends and neighbors, he also bought an advertisement in The Rural American for $3.50. The ad resulted in $6.50 in seed orders. With this success, George Wyatt Park found his life’s work. Park Seed Company published its first small catalog in 1868. The book contained just 8 pages and used 2 illustrations—wood cuts of an aster and a pansy. In 1871, Park Seed initiated a monthly publication called The Floral Gazette. Definitely more magazine than catalog, The Floral Gazette offered its readers a forum for sharing gardening experiences and a seed exchange column that encouraged readers to trade seeds, bulbs, and plants. It also carried a significant amount of advertising, including ads from other purveyors of seed. By 1877, the name had changed to Park’s Floral Magazine and circulation had grown to 20,000. By 1918, that figure hit 800,000. The growing number of catalogs brought in ever-increasing numbers of orders, and by 1900, it was clear that the business had outgrown the small post office at Libonia. Park Seed Company moved to La Park (now Paradise), Pennsylvania in 1902.” Well, that was certainly interesting…two young men (Paul and George) went into business very early in life and became very successful. Paul de Longpre painted this image for Park’s Floral Magazine and Park’s Floral Magazine had it printed. There was something written in the lower right corner. It was very small and very faint. Shining a flashlight on it, I read: I found that Brett Lithographers were well known for their excellent work in chromolithography. My lithograph was on heavy, pebble textured paper and the detail was amazing. It did look very similar to an original painting. I found an excellent website, http://www.metropostcard.com/publishersb2.html, where I found the following information: Brett Litho Co. 1852-1958 New York, NY After emigrating to Philadelphia from France, Alphonse Bret found work at the lithography shop of Thomas Sinclair. By 1852 he had set up his own shop, which largely produced prints, sheet music covers, and book illustrations. After moving to New York he opened Brett & Company in 1861. Ten years latter he briefly partnered with J.C. Fairchild, but in 1872 they split up and the firm was renamed the Brett Lithographing Company. They went on to produce a number of chromolithographic trade cards and postcards. Brett died in 1899 but the firm stayed in business. They operated out of Long Island City after 1908 until they were purchased by the United States Printing & Litho Company in 1958. After extensive research, I have not been able to find an image of Paul de Longpre’s chrysanthemums similar to mine. Not a lithograph, not a reproduction of any sort. And the original painting that was painted specifically for George W. Park for his “Park’s Floral Magazine”, where is it? I have not been able to locate it in any museum or collection. I will continue to research and update as necessary. If anyone reading this has information they’d like to share, I’d be delighted to hear from you! UPDATE October 22, 2014: Thanks to Jean’s comment below which inspired me, I have again searched this subject and have found something new and exciting to report. This same chrysanthamum image appeared in the January 1900 issue of Park’s Floral Magazine:
The text to the right of the illustration states that for 25 cents the magazine will be sent to the purchaser for one year as well as a 17 inch by 29 inch reproduction of this Paul de Longpre painting and seeds for the four different kinds of chrysanthamums shown in the painting. The photo of this issue of Park’s Floral Magazine was kindly provided by Karen at A Dose of Alchemy shop on Etsy. This is an extremely interesting shop to browse through; there’s vintage items and so much more. Take a look here: http://www.etsy.com/shop/adoseofalchemy
The photo above was recently taken, hoping to get a more true to life view of the litho (without the blue tinge in the background). This litho is for sale at my Etsy shop: https://www.etsy.com/listing/208869165/paul-de-longpre-chrysanthemum-litho To visit my Etsy shop, please click here: http://www.etsy.com/shop/queenofsienna