Campbell Art Co.

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Rita Argen Auerbach

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Campbell Art Company (AKA Alfred S. Campbell Art Company, Campbell Studio & Campbell Prints, Inc., American Publishers, c.1871-c. late 1930s) was originally founded by Alfred S. Campbell (English-American, 1840-1912) who was an English art photographer and commercial inventor. In 1867, Campbell was invited to come to the United States where he formed a partnership with Napoleon Sarony, under the Sarony name. Sarony had a great desire to gain access to Campbell’s patented photographic process, but within four short years, their business relationship dissolved. Campbell soon decided to move to New Jersey, where he built his state-of-the-art studio which had an onsite photo imaging production facility in Elizabeth, NJ initially calling it ‘Campbell Studios’. Aside from his art studio and patented photographic process for platinum photo-printing, Campbell also invented a panorama lens and held numerous patents for cameras and various paper products.

Over the years, the company specialized in reproductions of well-known artists' works, chromolithographs, various hand-colored prints & photographs finished in watercolor & oil, 'Apographs' (hand-colored rich brown photo-gelatin prints), platinum & carbon prints, stereograph cards, scenic views, postcards, portrait cabinet cards as well as portrait and theatrical photography for stage & screen, “Washington Prints” which included the best of the mural decorations in the Congressional Library, as well as Campbell's patented “Art-Relievo” platinum photographic prints which were 3-dimensional photographic reproductions in 'absolute relief' (embossed) that he sold in the late 1890s through the early 1900s (c1896-c1904). Campbell reproduced various master works, Native American Indian portraits/scenes, religious/inspirational scenes, genre scenes, boudoir images etc., by way of the Art Relievo process. What is also interesting about the Art Relievos is that, Campbell initially worked with the Carbon Studio in Manhattan, but soon hired one of their top employees, the well-known American pictorialist photographer, Rudolf Eickemeyer, Jr. (1862-1932) who later became art manager of Campbell's portrait studio at 564-568 Fifth Avenue in New York. While there, Eickemeyer, Jr. produced many of the early Art Relievo prints, carbon & platinum prints, as well as prints in watercolor, oil etc., and remained at Campbell Studios intermittently until 1915. The Art-Relievo prints came in various sizes (6.5 x 8" up to 15 x 60") and they were pretty expensive back in the day, ranging in price from $2-$50 each ($72- to $1,819- in today’s dollar for 2023). For whatever reason the Art Relievos seemed very short-lived; possibly because they were too expensive to make (with the molds & mold-machines needed), and many were sold with the extra deep frames which drove up cost too, or maybe people just couldn't afford them or they proved to be unpopular with the publicnot sure... On the open market, the Art Relievos don't tend to bring much at auction or via other online resources unfortunately, possibly because most people, various collectors or even many antique/fine art dealers don't really know what they are, but they are definitely an interesting and very cool patented print-process that should hopefully become more-collectible with time.

The Alfred S. Campbell Art Company also had gallery 'Art Rooms' located at 377-379 Broadway in New York City, their portrait studio located at 564-568 Fifth Avenue as well as a prints division called Campbell Prints, Inc., located at 33 West Thirty-Fourth Street, and at 59 West 19th Street. There were also divisions in Baltimore, MD and Charlestown, WV.

By 1900, the Alfred S. Campbell Art Co. had  branched out under the direction of William A. Morand in Manhattan at 538 5th Avenue which was called Campbell Studio. Morand had family & social connections in New York and built it into one of the most dominant companies in Manhattan at that time. Morand made a name for himself as one of the leading portraitists in the city. After Morand’s death in 1909, the company took an interest in theatrical photography and furthered their success with the entertainment industry with innovations in the new style of celebrity photography and portraiture.

By 1915, the company specialized in half-length portrait photos of screen and stage stars in the very fashionable dress styles of the times. They routinely supplied theaters and magazines with their photographs. They were a large force in the entertainment industry, but by 1925 the company had to take a corporate charter for $25,000 and by 1928 the company’s entertainment market had ended. They did manage to continue a commercial portrait studio through the 1930’s.

(Written & compiled chronologically by Mark Strong of Meibohm Fine Arts, Inc., East Aurora, NY,