[CATLIN, George (1796-1872)]
[Brewery fire, Buffalo, New York]
[Buffalo: October 1825]. Watercolour over graphite, heightened with white, on grey wove paper. Sheet size: 5 3/8 x 8 3/8 inches. Inscribed in pencil lower left "A helter-schelter at Buffalo 9th Oct. 1825 / 'Huzza boys, the Brewery!'" Affixed at corners onto album leaf, with later ink attribution to Catlin below. Matted. Provenance: Captain William Henry Shippard.
An early, original watercolour by George Catlin.
The present watercolour attributed by provenance to George Catlin depicts a fire at a brewery in Buffalo just days before the celebration of the opening of the Erie Canal. The watercolour was at one time part of an album assembled by Captain William Henry Shippard, who Catlin describes in his Notes of Eight Years Travels and Residence in Europe, as "my best of friends." Shippard, an English army officer, worked on Catlin's behalf in the 1840s in the London exhibition and attempted sale of his collection, and further assisted in Catlin's research as a reader at the British Museum. Catlin's career as an artist was gaining significant momentum at the time he executed this watercolour in 1825. After abandoning a career in law, Catlin moved to Philadelphia in 1821 to attempt to make his way as an artist. He exhibited frequently, and, in 1824, became a member of the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. He earned the bulk of his income doing society portraits and miniatures, though he tired quickly of both. In 1825, he travelled to Buffalo, producing original artwork on the construction and opening of the Erie Canal. Several of his drawings would be included as lithographs in Cadwallader Colden's Memoir on the opening of the canal. During this period he also sketched the falls at Niagara, a theme which would evolve into his first collection of prints, Views of Niagara, published in 1831. Still in Buffalo a year following the present watercolour, Catlin would paint a well-received portrait of the Seneca chief Red Jacket, which launched his career as an Indian artist and precipated his momentous western tour.