The advent of photolithography popularized the buying, selling, and sending of postcards in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. David Prochaska writes that they were sold at kiosks, from public parks and exhibitions to restaurants and even on passenger trains. He notes that there were cases of individuals sending up to 50 postcards a day!1 Postcard photographers and publishers intended to "cover the world" with image collections from the mundane to the exotic, constituting a voyage of discovery of places and peoples. Collected as individual scenes, or in larger series of sets, postcards became the medium for everyman to share experiences of travel, architectural wonder, and personal validation ("I've been there!").
By the late 1890's and into the twentieth century, photographic views dominated the picture postcard, or view-card, industry. Professional photographers using field cameras were employed to produce crisp views of subjects and landscapes. Images crowded with a multitude of details and multi-toned delineations were most valued by the industry companies.2 The postcard business emerged as an international giant.
Here are a few of the many thousands of postcards from the collection of the Ingalls Library. Chosen images of France are intended to accompany our Impressionist and Modern Masters exhibition. Paris, Giverny, Normandy, and Brittany represent a few of the many places the artists lived and painted. From the Moulin de la Galette in Paris, to Monet's haystacks near Giverny, these views evoke a world long past and forever changed by war and progress.
1. Prochaska, David, "Thinking Postcards," Visual Resources 17, no. 4 (2001): 384.
2. Christraud M. Geary and Virginia-Lee Webb, Delivering Views, Distant Cultures in Early Postcards (Washington D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1998), 16