Pastime and Pin Money in Crystoleum Pictures

This is the fifth article of the School for Housewives 1904 series published on Jan 31, 1904, and is a little longer article on the crystoleum method of colouring photographs. A quick google of crystoleum paintings provides a number of examples including a nice example of one where the two glass plates have been pulled apart to show the paint work.

Like many of Marion Harland’s articles this is one that is indicative of the times that they lived in. Compared to present day where a coloured photograph is the norm it is interesting to say the least on the amount of effort that was required to create coloured pictures. I must laugh, however, as I imagine the first efforts of school children who might not have abided by the instructions for acceptable colours and instead created purple or green faced people instead.

School for Housewives – Pastime and Pin Money in Crystoleum Pictures

Who has not wished, in looking at a photograph or other attractive picture, that, by some easy process, it could be colored?

The wish is now almost as readily realized as those of the nursery tales which became facts by a single gesture of the fairy wand.

The magic wand that makes real the present day wish for colored pictures is crystoleum.

Strictly speaking, crystoleum painting is by no means a new art, but until recently revolutionized by the invention of new methods and apparatus, it was a very poor art at best. The old-fashioned method of sand-papering the photograph and then treating it to a wax bath made the work at once trying and tedious, with the result that few reached the desired haven. By the new process, however, it is simplicity itself. Indeed, there are few arts which are at the same time so easy to acquire and so well worth acquiring. The labor has been abolished, and crystoleum painting today is a veritable delight and a pleasure.

The materials are neither numerous nor expensive. Before any actual painting can be done, three distinct processes are necessary. The photograph must be fixed on the first glass, he former rendered transparent by a special preparation, after which it is treated to a coating of preservative. This completes the preliminary preparations, and the photograph is then ready for painting. All colors on the first glass must be put on very thinly, and strengthened at the back of the second glass, two glasses being necessary in all crystoleum work.

Should a portrait subject be selected, the eyes, eyebrows and eyelashes will require the first attention. Then the lips should have a soft and natural appearance. Hair needs delicate treatment. Flowers, lace, jewelry and smaller draperies may be painted in appropriate colors. The second glass can then be taken in hand.

Strips of gum-paper are pasted down each see of the picture, as it is most essential that the glasses should not touch. It is the addition of the second glass that gives the wonderfully soft and ivory-like appearance so peculiar to well-painted crystoleums. Flesh tints are applied tickle upon the back of the second glass, also dresses, backgrounds, skies, etc. The picture is then mounted and bound ready for framing. Pictures can be reproduced in this way in almost any size, from carte-de-visite to large photographs 16 inches by 20 inches. The result is a really beautiful colored picture, suitable for hanging in the drawing room.

If the instructions are carefully followed amateurs will be satisfied and delighted even with their first picture, and consider it quite good enough for framing. Not only is crystoleum painting fascinating work, but as an educational medium should be welcomed by parents and school teachers. It first teaches all young people the value and meaning of colors, and how to use them. It makes them interested in everything around them, the color of the landscape, the architectural points of buildings, etc. They also unconsciously notice the color and form of flowers, trees, the decorative art displayed in furnishing rooms, etc.

But the work will owe its greatest vogue to the fact that by its means the amateur can make the most lovely miniatures of herself, friends and relations. If you look at an ordinary photograph you must admit at once that it would be far more charming if by some magic of the photographer’s art the hair, eyes, lips and cheeks revealed their natural colors. Then take snapshots; how much more interesting and fascinating they become when colored. Above all, crystoleum painting is by no means difficult to learn. It can be quickly mastered by everyone of ordinary intelligence. You can spend a few hours upon a picture, or longer, or spread it over a week, just as the fancy takes you. Some enthusiasts spend a fortnight or even three weeks in producing photographs of some of the famous masters in colors, and lovely pictures they have made.

Girls, too, can make money out of crystoleum painting. Many already do so by icing lessons to others. Some add quite a snug little sum to their income by painting pictures and then selling them, either to friends, or through dealers, or by advertising them. Photographs of local interest, nicely colored at bazaars, while colored portraits make admirable Christmas and birthday presents and are greatly appreciated.

Marion Harland

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