Hans Abels' Kunstforlag, Christiania, Copenhagen

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Hans Abel’s Kunstforlag, Christiania, Copenhagen, Denmark (Art Publishers/Photographers, 1884-1911), AKA H. Abel’s Kunstforlag. The publisher, Hans Holtermann Abel (Danish, 1830-1903) was a pioneer in early portrait and art photography and along with his second wife, photographer, Louise Doris Sophie Pauline (née Kleffel) Abel (Danish, 1841–1907), the couple started their own photographic studio and photographic supplies business in 1864 called, L. Abel & Co. (1864-1884) in Hoppes Gaard by Torvet in Christiania (Today’s Oslo). Louise ran the portrait studio and Hans ran the supply side of the business where he sold equipment, photo supplies and chemicals to photographers and researchers in the rapidly growing trade. Abels were the first in Norway to produce portraits in the larger “cabinet” card format by 1867 and as the company grew, they moved to a few various locations over the subsequent years.

Their photographic studio and photo trade business were both successful, but by the mid 1880’s Hans’ side of the photographic sales and supplies business seemed to grow more than Louise’s side of the photo studio, from the increased competition of other local photographers. With less to do than her husband by that time, Louise decided to found a new company in 1884 called, Abel Kunstforlag (Art Publishers, 1884-1911) which was a publishing company combined with her photographic studio. The newly formed company was one of the first in Norway to produce high-quality Christmas cards as well as photographic art reproductions on a large scale. Many of the Christmas scenes were designed by Norwegian graphic artists and within a few short years, the company started producing numerous large photographic prints in series featuring works of art from the National Gallery. Over the years, the company sold countless postcards, photographs and art prints. The photo studio was managed by Louise until 1890, when she sold it to the female photographer, Sine Kraft (Norwegian, 1851-1915) who had worked for the Abels since 1882. By 1898, their two sons, Gustav Abel (1872–1936) and Louis Abel (1874–1932) took over the family business and ran it until 1911 when Hans and Louise retired from the company. The company name was changed to A/S Abel’s Kunstforlag og Reproduktionsanstalt and was completely separated from the previous company. After their retirement, Hans and Louise moved from Cristiania to a farm in Birkely near Hørsand Station in Løten, Hedmark, Norway.

(Written & compiled by Mark Strong of Meibohm Fine Arts, East Aurora, NY)