Album Pintoresco de la Isla de Cuba
1853 & 1855
In 1837, the Royal Patriotic and Economic Society sent Alexander Moreau de Jonnes to France to contract skilled artists and purchase a high quality lithographic press. Among the artists who returned with Moreau was the talented but little known landscape painter Pierre Toussaint Frederic Mialhe. Together with his French colleagues, Mialhe conceived the production of a large series of views depicting Cuban landscapes and views. Between 1840 and 1845, he issued a collection of views entitled Isla de Cuba Pintoresca, followed by a second collection, the Viaje Pintoresco Al Rededor de la Isla de Cuba from 1847-48 published by Louis Marquier.
The series success was immediate. The prints were purchased by private individuals and American and European publishers who were keen to illustrate their stories with the views. However in 1853, Bernado May, a Spaniard working in Cuba, sent 26 of the Mialhe views to be copied in Germany. The German lithographs were then sent back to Cuba where they were sold in competition with Mialhe’s originals and at half the price.
Mialhe and Marquier sued May for copyright violation but due to a legal technicality lost their case and May was allowed to continue selling his views; promptly producing a far grander chromolithographed second version of Mialhe’s collection in 1855. Cheated and disillusioned, Mialhe left Cuba for France shortly thereafter never to return. The first important lithographed work of the island, it is through the very pirated editions Mialhe disputed that his work is accessible today.