This detailed view of Philadelphia harbor depicts Spark’s Shot Tower on the left, the old Navy Yard, and Christ Church steeple.
Born in England, Thomas Birch became the earliest and most notable marine painters in America. He began painting large and miniature portraits in oil and watercolor and also did marine subjects, becoming noted for ship portraits, and seascapes especially with naval battles of the War of 1812. Some of the best known of these paintings are The 'Constitution', The United States and The Macedonian.
Thomas Birch was born in Warwickshire, England, son of the enamel and miniature painter William Russell Birch (1755-1834). He and his father settled in Philadelphia in 1794 and produced popular sets of engravings that documented the city's growth such as The City of Philadelphia (1800) and Country Seats (1808). Thomas Birch began to paint portraits around 1806, and soon gravitated to the subjects that made him famous, landscapes, winter scenes, and marine scenes.
Birch also painted numerous winter scenes throughout his career, perhaps influenced by the popularity of sleighing and skating in Philadelphia. His landscapes represented the more rustic tradition of English painting and although the subject matter was either the Pennsylvania of New Jersey countryside, Birch’s imagination was oriented toward seventeenth century Dutch painting as he was influenced by artists Jan van Goyen and Salomon van Ruysdael.
Birch frequently exhibited his work at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and the Artists’ Fund Society, formed in 1835. His art was influential in the later development of the Hudson River School of painting and the style of romantic realism, characterized by romanticized and idealistic depictions of nature and American landscapes.
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