BIRCH, William (1755-1834, artist). - Samuel SEYMOUR (engraver)
The City of New York in the State of New York, North America
Springland, near Bristol, PA: published by William Birch [and] William H. Morgan, 100 Arch Street, [Philadelphia], "1st January 1803" [but circa 1820]. Copper engraving, handcoloured, expert repaired tears and restoration to blank margin. Sheet size: 21 7/8 x 28 5/8 inches.
A fine example of the third state of "the Birch View with the Picnic Party".
"This rendering of New York from across the East River is a companion to William Birch's view of Philadelphia ... and was issued by the artist to arouse interest in a projected series of views of New York, which never appeared. Birch explains in his unpublished autobiography ... that he visited New York frequently in his endeavor to prepare an iconography of the city ... 'I took many turns to New York where I met with friendly reception and politeness. I had nearly completed a sett of drawings of that city which I meant to publish as a companion Vollum to the Philadelphia; but found profits of the undertaking was not equal to the expence of travelling and the support of my family.'
'The Drawing of New-York,' wrote Birch in the promotional literature for the view, 'is from the opposite shore of the Sound, as it appears from a great eminence, forming a chaste and grand subject, very similar to the choice of subject made use of by the celebrated Salvator Rosa; the Bay is seen, and the opposite bank of the North River over the busy town at sunset, contrasting in the foreground with the quiet grazing of a horse under the wreck of an ancient tree, upon a sequestered lawn on Long-Island.' The description was included in a prospectus for the first edition of Birch's Philadelphia views.
In the second state of the engraving, a picnic party was substituted for the white horse, and other changes were made ... [The present example is from the third state], similar to the second, but with the imprint of William H. Morgan ... in this form the plate was reissued about 1820." (Deak).
The view shows a family enjoying a picnic on Brooklyn Heights at a place that gives a nice panoramic view of Manhattan from the southeast and which shows all the major buildings of the City in 1802, the date depicted, beginning with the south end of the Battery on the left. Visible through the masts of the ship on the river is the steeple of Trinity Church (at the west end of Wall Street). Farther to the right are St. Paul's, St. George's, the Dutch Reformed Church and numerous other prominent features.
Cf. Deak Picturing America 245; cf. Pyne Collection (1912) 29; Stauffer 2884; cf. Stokes I, plate 77 and pp.468-469.