(American, 1840 - 1909)

Flatlands, Brooklyn

Oil on canvas, 6 1/4 x 8 3/4 inches
Signed and inscribed at lower left: “C. L. FUSSELL/FLATLANDS”

Flatlands was the British name for a Dutch group of settlements in Brooklyn that had collectively been known since 1647 as New Amersfoort, an area that comprises the present neighborhoods of Marine Park, Mill Basin, Bergen Beach, Georgetown, Canarsie, East Flatbush, and Starrett City. Throughout the colonial period and the first half of the nineteenth century the sparsely populated area was used for farming, and fishermen harvested clams from Jamaica Bay.

The area began to develop after 1875, when the Brooklyn City Railroad Company provided transportation to shopping districts in downtown Brooklyn. The population increased after streetcars on Flatbush Avenue were electrified in 1893. Flatlands was one of the last towns in the county to be annexed to the city of Brooklyn in 1896.

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.”