American & European Paintings - September 2008
George Emerick Essig
(American, 1838–1923)
Clark’s Inn
Watercolor, 12 1/8 × 23 3/4 inches
Signed at lower right: “Geo. E. Essig”
RS 6186

George Emerick Essig was born in Philadelphia, where the 1860 city directory first listed him as an engraver. He studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in 1858 and later exhibited there from 1876 to 1888. Deeply influenced by James Hamilton (1819–1878) and especially Edward Moran (1829–1901), around 1875 Essig began to produce detailed, topographically accurate marine scenes representing the southern New Jersey coast and the Delaware River and Bay. While working for the Philadelphia Photo Electrotype Company during the early 1890s he made a number of high quality etchings. Essig moved to the Atlantic City area in New Jersey in 1898, and seems to have painted for local hotels and catered to the tourist trade. Essig’s primary medium was watercolor, but he also painted some large exhibition pictures in oil. His later work was characterized by a nostalgic, introspective quality. Essig died in Ventnor and was buried in West Laurel Hill Cemetery in Philadelphia.

This watercolor represents Clark’s Inn, one of Philadelphia’s earliest taverns. Built in 1690 by a man named Clark, it was located on Chestnut Street across from the State House. Robert Earle Graham, in “The Taverns of Colonial Philadelphia,” Transactions of the American Philosophical Society, New Series, 43 (1953), p. 319, noted that at that time the area was “practically in the country,” but “the growth of the city soon enfolded it, and it became a convenient dropping-off place for assemblymen and other public servants whose business took them to the State House.” As the inscription that accompanies the watercolor indicates, Clark’s Inn was at one point called the Coach and Horses. Marion Grzesiak, in A Certain Slant of Light: Marines and Seascapes by George Emerick Essig 1838–1923 [exh. cat. The Noyes Museum] (Oceanville, New Jersey, 1993), p. 12, has speculated that Essig was active as a commercial illustrator, so Clark’s Inn may have been done for such an endeavor.


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