Wednesday, June 15, 2011


One of the big drawbacks with photography in its early days was the
lack of colour.  This was overcome with hand colouring of the prints.
Sometimes the colourist was an artist who wanted to supplement his or
her income, or provide a cheaper alternative to a client. Some clients
specifically requested this service.  Others learned their trade at a
photographic studio.  Some colourists then went on to become
successful artists in their own right, including Walter Saunders Barnard, Ernest Widdas, Ada Whiting and Walter Herbert Wheeler (the latter artist becoming well known for his equestrian paintings. It is not known whether he painted miniatures)

Famous Swiss enamel painter John Graff specialised in the so-called Rajah watch portraits. 
 Few people realised that he was overpainting photographic images

Overpainted photograph by Katurah Collings
 showing the shadow of the photographic print underneath

Charming photominiature c.1905 by Arthur Hands

Two basically coloured photographs  probably of husband and wife 
c.1940 signed SM

Two cleverly coloured photographs c.1950 by Alan Shayle

In their day, there was no intention to deceive on the part of those who worked as colourists for photographic studios and on their own account.  However, at the height of the revival of the Grand Tour of Europe at the turn of the 20th Century, many prints were hastily overpainted and framed, usually featuring reproductions of Old Masters, and passed off as the real thing to unsuspecting tourists. Some were cheekily signed 'Reinolds' or 'Roi' or even 'Cosway'!
More recently, an overpainted photograph of a miniature of a soldier by Frederick Buck was allegedly sold at a UK auction as a portrait miniature painted on card!