1779 (Warwickshire, England)
1851 (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)
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Often Known For
marine, ship portrait, and landscape painting
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Hudson River School Painters
|This biography from the Archives of AskART:|
|Born in England, Thomas Birch became the earliest marine painter
specialist in America, and also was noted for landscapes, although they
were described by art historian James Flexner has having "never
transcended the illustrator's tradition." (187). Many of these
landscapes were snowscenes, and several depicted the Hudson River
Thomas Birch was the son of William Russell Birch, an
engraver and painter of enamel miniatures. They immigrated in
1794 to the United States and worked together as William Birch and Son
in Philadelphia. They did designing, engraving, and publishing of
topographic views of the city, regarded "as some of the finest
cityscapes done in American in the late 18th century" (Baigell
38). One of the best-known scenes by Thomas Birch was Penn's Treaty Tree, a depiction of a huge shading tree dominating most of the canvas with harbor activity as a secondary theme.
Birch 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.
Many of his collectors were the owners of the ships shown in the ship
portraits and officers whose ships had won the battles. Birch
turned out the paintings as soon after the battles as he could. He also
did dramatic ship wreck scenes, derived from accounts of the survivors.
the 1830s, he began painting landscapes and developed a reputation for
snow scenes that had much human activity such as skating and sleigh
riding. He also designed coins for the U.S. Mint and became
highly influential at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art.
he lived and painted primarily in Philadelphia, he also painted in New
Jersey, in New York along the Hudson River, and on the Delaware River
estate of the exiled Joseph Bonaparte, former king of Naples and
Spain. His trips on the Delaware River had much influence on his
marine painting of clear atmospheric scenes. He painted an early
view of the town of Nantucket, but he may have done that from pictures
rather than from actually travelling there.
Despite the fact that he was held in much respect by his contemporaries, he died in poverty.
Matthew Baigell, Dictionary of American Artists
James Flexner, The Light of Distant Skies
Peter Falk, Who Was Who in American Art
|Biography from VALLEJO GALLERY, LLC, Marine Art Specialists:|
|One of the first and perhaps the first American marine artist, Thomas
Birch forms a bridge from the ‘Old World masters’ to the post-colonial
pride of the new world. Built upon the foundations of his
father’s influence and admiration for the works of French artist
Claude-Joseph Vernet, he produced many highly regarded marine paintings
of the early 19th century.|
Born in London, he emigrated with his
family to the United States in 1794. As a teenager Birch studied
and assisted at the foot of his father, William Russell Birch, a noted
enamel miniaturist and engraver. Together they sketched and
engraved images for an important volume detailing the growth of their
new home of Philadelphia. Thomas also painted many now famous images of
the naval engagements of the War of 1812.
Painting marines and
landscape chiefly in oil, he is credited with inspiring other American
artists including Thomas Cole, who studied in Philadelphia as a young
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