Charles Troedel – a great Melbourne lithographer

Charles Troedel was one of Melbourne’s foremost printers in the latter years of the 19th century. 

As a lithographer he was responsible for producing many high-quality images of early Melbourne. 

He also employed and mentored several notable artists and developed lithographic techniques which allowed high-quality artworks to be made available to the public at reasonable prices.

Johannes Theodor Carl (Charles) Troedel was born in Schleswig-Holstein, then a part of Denmark, in 1835, the son of Carl and Maria. 

Carl was a lithographer and Charles became his apprentice. Later, to gain experience, Charles went to Norway where he met A.W. Schuhkraftt, a Melbourne printer visiting Norway and who was on the lookout for skilled young lithographers. He recruited Troedel and his friend Robert Wendel. The two arrived in Melbourne in 1860.

After working with Schuhkraftt for three years Troedel set up in business for himself in Collins St, where Wendel joined him. Troedel imported a lithographic printing press from Germany and this was used by his company for many years. 

In the lithographic process the artist draws directly on to the surface of a flat stone which is then chemically treated so that when ink is applied to the stone it adheres only to the drawn design. When a sheet of paper is pressed on to the stone the image is transferred to it. By using different stones it is possible to add different colours to the image.

Troedel’s first great success as an independent lithographer was his Melbourne Album. Published in 1863, this was a set of 24 lithographic prints of Melbourne and the surrounding districts. The artist for many of these prints was François Cogné, whom Troedel had met while working with Schuhkraftt. In fact the first two prints were produced while Troedel was still with Schukraftt, the remainder coming after he had set up his own business. 

The Melbourne Album was published as a subscription series and was very successful. The images provide a valuable record of the appearance of Melbourne in the 1860s.

Amongst the other artists that Troedel worked with was Nicholas Chevalier. Together they produced chromolithographs in which images from stones carrying different colours were overlaid. This allowed colours to be combined to produce a much greater range of colours than could be done in the earlier tinted lithographs and the results had the appearance of a painting. 

Twelve prints in An Album of Chromolithographs produced by Chevalier and Troedel were the first chromolithographs produced in Australia and both men won medals in the 1866 Melbourne Intercolonial Exhibition for “successfully introducing chromo-lithography to Melbourne”.

Other artists who worked with Troedel included such well-known names as Eugene von Guerard, Arthur Streeton, Blamire Young and Lionel Lindsay. 

Through the medium of colour lithography it was possible to make high-quality artworks available to the public at reasonable prices and the demand for lithographic prints was large.

Although it was pictorial art which launched Troedel, he later turned to more commercial lithography, specialising in labels and advertising for food, tobacco and drinks. 

He also produced letterheads, bank cheques, share certificates and posters. He became a leading figure in the printing industry and served in many organisations including the Victorian Master Printers’ Association.

Troedel had married Julia Sarah Glover in 1869 and they had five sons and three daughters. When Troedel died in 1906 three of his sons continued the business. 

In 1910 the company became Troedel & Cooper in a partnership with Edward Cooper, a long-time colleague of Troedel. 

In 1953 Troedel & Cooper produced a fine set of reproductions of the Melbourne Album prints to celebrate the 90th anniversary of the original firm. Over the years, the company went through a number of changes and amalgamations but finally went into liquidation in 2013, 153 years after Charles Troedel first set up in business.

Charles Troedel was probably the most distinguished of Melbourne lithographers. His earliest works have left us with a beautiful record of Melbourne in the 1860s and he later went on to make high quality affordable artworks available through the medium of chromolithography and to produce a huge range of commercial art. 

In 1968 Troedel & Cooper assembled a large collection of the company’s lithographs and this collection is now lodged with the State Library of Victoria, a fitting memorial to a famous printer.

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