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American & European Paintings - September 2008
 
 
painting
 
Unknown Artist
(American, mid-19th century)
Washington, D. C.
Oil on panel, 7 3/4 × 9 3/4 inches
Signed and dated at lower left: “J V[?] 1800”
RS 4715


This view of Washington, D.C., is an adaptation of a color aquatint by Thomas Cartwright of London after a lost painting by George Beck titled “George Town and Federal City, or City of Washington.” The image was circulated widely after 1801 when it was published by Atkins & Nightingale of London and Philadelphia. Beck (c. 1748–1812), who was born in Ellford, England, first exhibited landscapes at the Royal Academy of London in 1790. He came to the United States sometime during the early 1790s, and was one of the first academically trained European painters to work in this country. He was an itinerant and traveled throughout the United States before settling in Lexington, Kentucky, in 1805, where he died of tuberculosis.

An old clipping attached to the panel’s reverse bears a crude reproduction of Cartwright’s print that is accompanied by a text derived from John Pinkerton, Samuel Vince, and Benjamin Smith Barton, Modern Geography: A Description of the Empires, Kingdoms, States, and Colonies (Philadelphia; John Conrad & Co., 1804), vol. 2, p. 433:

“The city of Washington, in the territory of Columbia, was established as the seat of government, after the year 1800. It stands at the junction of the rivers Potomak and the Eastern Branch, extending nearly four miles up each, and including a tract of territory exceeded, in point of convenience, salubrity, and beauty, by none in America.”


  


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