(American, 1840 - 1909)
Fort Hamilton, Brooklyn
Oil on canvas, 8 x 11 1/2 inches
Signed and inscribed at lower left: “C.L. FUSSELL/[FT.] HAMILTON”
Charles Lewis Fussell moved to Brooklyn, New York in 1889 and over the next eight years painted numerous views of the borough’s rapidly vanishing landscape. Fussell’s Brooklyn landscapes are noteworthy because growing urbanization was transforming what William Cullen Bryant had considered “little more than New York’s vast dormitory,” into a densely populated suburb.
Fort Hamilton is located at a strategic position on the southwestern tip of Brooklyn, at what is now the base of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge. After seizing New Amsterdam from Holland in 1664, the British erected a fortification on the site called Fort Lewis with cannons powerful enough to challenge ships that passed through the Narrows between Brooklyn and Staten Island. Shortly after the War of 1812, the federal government decided to build a granite replacement for the old British fort. The new structure was built in 1825 and unofficially named “Fort Hamilton” after the first Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton. During the Civil War, Fort Hamilton and other fortifications on Staten Island protected New York Harbor against Confederate raiders.
About the Artist
(American, 1840 - 1909)
Charles Lewis Fussell was born in West Vincent, Chester County, Pennsylvania, the son of a prominent Quaker abolitionist physician. He attended Friends High School and later Central High School in Philadelphia, where he befriended Thomas Eakins (1844-1916). Fussell began to attend the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in 1859 and exhibited there between 1863 and 1905. He also took private art lessons from the history and portrait painter Peter Frederick Rothermel (1817-1895). He became interested in landscape after a visit to Greeley, Colorado, and after his family settled in Media, Delaware County, Pennsylvania he traveled throughout the surrounding area in search of inspiring scenery. Little is known of Fussell's activities until he settled in Brooklyn, New York, in 1889, where he lived for the next eight years.
Dispirited because he failed to achieve professional success in New York, Fussell returned to the family homestead in Media. Shortly before Fussell's death a newspaper reviewer praised his work and noted that he had “grown gray in the service of art, and with his silvery pate, luxuriant beard, and benign and benevolent expression, he might easily pose for a portrait of St. Nicholas.”