San Jose, Costa Rica: Paynter Bros. 1898 (ca.). 47 black and white photographs and photographic prints of Costa Rica, mounted on heavy card stock (bowed, worn, and brittle, some corners defective). Photographs: 7.5" x 9". Cards: approximately 12.5" x 10". Numeric notations in the negative; occasional identifications / annotations on versos in pen (sometimes quite faded). While the photographs are in good condition, the fragile card stock on which they were mounted is NOT. Priced accordingly. Good. Item #3341
Scarce collection of large format, original Costa Rica photographs and photographic prints by Paynter Bros. Ours are mounted on heavy card, without captions; compare these to the 48 Paynter Bros. photographs in a disbound album offered at Swann in 2014 (Dec. 11, lot 2370 - est. $3000 - $4500 unsold).
The Paynter Bros. have been shamefully underdocumented by historians of Central American photography, especially considering that the firm was one of the important (and certainly one of the most prolific) late nineteenth-century Costa Rican photographic studios, second only to Harrison N. Rudd's with whom they formed a partnership in 1890.
Rudd and William Paynter established the two-story Galeria de Artes in front of the Parque Central in San Jose. Their photographs were considered among the very best in Central America at this time. They worked together until 1895, when the Rudd and Paynter company was dissolved, and William, Luke and Richard created their own studio as the Paynter Brothers Gallery, or simply Paynter Bros. The important of their work in documenting Costa Rica and her people cannot be overestimated. Their photographs appeared in international exhibitions and were distributed via hundreds of thousands of post-cards, illustrated magazines, and travel books. They captured views of the Turrialba Volcano and the first shots of the Poás Volcano crater, which is represented by six photographs in the present collection.
Our collection can be dated with some confidence to ca. 1896-1900. The Teatro Nacional de Costa Rica (represented in 7 photographs herein), which opened to the public in 1897, is shown under construction and as well as completed. The Rio Grande Railway Bridge (represented in 4 photographs), which was completed in 1902, appears here while still under construction. While none of the photographs are signed, we have seen many Paynter Bros. postcards depicting the same images.
Some of the photographs were clearly made not for picture-postcards but for documenting the "ordinary": views of a logged hillside, maintenance handcars, a landslide, and an old road are juxtaposed with the luminous opulence of the epic Teatro Nacional and sweeping vistas.
CONTENTS OF THE COLLECTION:
Construction of the Railway Bridge over the Rio Grande, and the Atlantic Railroad (9)
Teatro Nacional (7)
Architecture in San Jose, CR (4)
Poás Volcano crater (6)
Views of San Jose and CR (8)
People at work and play (11)
Coffee and cocoa plants (2).
Practically NO scholarly work about the Paynter Bros. Studio has been published, but see Florencia Quesada Avendaño, "La Modernizacion entre Cafetales San José, Costa Rica, 1880-1930" (PhD Thesis, Univ. Helsinki, 2007, pp. 232-233 with references to archival collections in Costa Rica).