|Glass lantern slide images c. 1920s-1930s from the J. Horace McFarland Collection at the Archives of American Gardens.|
Which one tells the true story?
These two images from the J. Horace McFarland Collection highlight just how untruthful the colorist's artistry could be. While the images are exactly alike, the colors are radically different. Transforming a clump of purple irises to yellow irises was as easy as choosing a different paint color--no replanting necessary. The artistic results are stunning, but can be a nightmare for garden historians trying to identify specific plants for garden restoration purposes.
Regardless of how truthful they are, even today, hand-tinted glass lantern slides should be celebrated for transporting their viewers to colorful and inviting locales, places where black-and-white images would be a drab substitute. In this case, 'presuming' their truthfulness is certainly an understandable error.
Joyce Connolly, Museum Specialist
Archives of American Gardens