Louis Prang—artist, businessman, and educational reformer—was born in Prussia in 1824 and arrived in America in 1850 to pursue his vocation as printer and wood-engraver. He established his own printing firm in 1860 to produce what he termed “chromolithographs”—dazzling reproductions of paintings printed in dozens of colors from hand-drawn litho stones—along with the colorful album cards, children’s books, trade cards, and greeting cards so beloved in the Victorian era. In 1874 he produced America’s first pictorial Christmas cards, eventually employing noted artists to create elaborate designs, elegantly reproduced and often fringed in silk. By the 1880s Prang and Company had issued millions of Christmas cards, along with smaller numbers of Valentine’s and Easter greetings. Prang set an unsurpassed standard for quality and elegance, but cheaper imports undercut his greeting-card business and in 1890 he abandoned Christmas card printing altogether to concentrate on fine-art reproduction and his innovative art-education books. In 1897 Prang’s involvement with lithography ended, and he died in California in 1909. While his sentimental Victorian productions fell out of favor in the 20th century, his name is still recalled by the ever-popular “Prang” brand children’s crayons and water-color sets.
“The Father of the American Christmas Card: Louis Prang from the Collection of Keith S. Clark” includes a wealth of examples of Prang’s chromolithographed Christmas greetings, from his early productions to his celebrated “Prize Christmas Card” series. Examples of the stunning “American Chromo” landscapes and large-format lithographs that made Prang famous throughout the world will be on view. In addition, the show features rarely-seen Prang material including proof sheets, books, and personal memorabilia, along with examples of Thomas Moran’s important Yellowstone views, and Walters’ monumental “Oriental Ceramic Art”, Prang’s final chromolithographic masterpiece.
A contemporary artist who is a master of the ancient traditions of Chinese book design and also runs the Jingren Art Design Studio in Beijing, Lu Jingren is renowned not only for his prolific creative work and his cutting-edge design sensibilities, but also for his dedication to fostering an appreciation of the book as an art form. He is a recently retired professor of book design from Tsinghua University in Beijing and is known for involving young artists in every aspect of his work and social life in China. He has garnered numerous awards for book design in Hong Kong, Germany, the United States, and China and is a member of the Alliance Graphique Internationale (AGI). Lu Jingren will be a featured speaker at the 2017 CODEX symposium on February 6 and 7 in Berkeley.
In this exhibition, the Book Club of California is proud to showcase some of Professor Lu’s finest and most inventive works, which provide a modern response to the centuries-long traditions of both Chinese and Japanese book making.