Athletic Aesthetics: Art, Craft and Bolton Brown

Bolton Brown inking stone, reproduced from Bolton Brown, “The Process of Lithography,” Pencil Points 4, no. 3 (March 1923).

Bolton Coit Brown (1864–1936) liked to set himself seemingly insurmountable physical and artistic challenges. Best known today as the collaborating printer of George Bellows’s (1882–1925) great lithographs of the 1920s, Brown was also an accomplished mountaineer and a serious artist in his own right. He made several coveted “first ascents” in the Sierra Nevada in the 1890s, and played a key role in the founding of the Arts and Crafts community of Byrdcliffe, in Woodstock, New York, in 1902. In 1913 one of his paintings (now lost) was included in the Armory Show; and in the 1910s, when he was over 50, he revived the languishing fine art of lithography in the United States.1

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  1. In 1915, the year Brown went to England to study lithography, Joseph Pennell referred to the “revival of artistic lithography, now in progress,” in England and Europe, “while experiments are being made in the United States.” Chromo-lithography enjoyed widespread commercial use in the United States after the Civil War for posters, illustrated books and color prints. See Elizabeth Robins Pennell and Joseph Pennell, Lithography and Lithographers: Some Chapters in the History of the Art (New York: The MacMillan Company, 1915). []