BIRCH, William (1755-1834). View from the Seat of Mr. John Stevens, Hoboken, New Jersey.

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BIRCH, William (1755-1834).
View from the Seat of Mr. John Stevens, Hoboken, New Jersey.
Watercolor with pen and ink on paper.
Ca. 1808.
3 7/8" x 5 5/8" sheet.


America, during the late 18th and early 19th centuries was a burgeoning industrial nation, which offered its growing population the privileges of liberty and freedom. Amongst the new immigrants to its shores was William Birch, who arrived from England during the late 18th century and quickly established himself as a noted painter and engraver in the city of Philadelphia. Not only did American patrons of the Arts quickly embrace Birch as a native, but the artist himself found renewed inspiration in the excitement of the flourishing country. This beautiful watercolor relates closely to an extremely rare engraving entitled, Hoboken in New Jersey, the Seat of Mr. John Stevens. The engraving is part of a series of views published in 1808 under the title The Country Seats of the United States of North America and depicts the home of the inventor-engineer and financier John Stevens. While the house itself was the subject of Birch's engraving, in his watercolor only the portico of the house is shown and the artist's attention is instead turned to the view of New York across the Hudson River. Mr. Stevens is depicted standing outside his residence admiring his magnificent view. John Stevens invested his family fortune in the development of the steam-powered boat. He inaugurated the first regular ferry service on the Delaware and Connecticut Rivers and was the first to make a steam-powered ocean journey from New York to Philadelphia.
In 1784, he purchased Hoboken after the land was confiscated from the Tory sympathizer, William Bayard, paying $90,000 for the whole area. Three years later, he moved his family to his magnificent new house and sold the rest of the land in lots to wealthy New Yorkers eager to escape the bustling city. It soon became a fashionable resort known as “Elysian Fields.” No doubt the entrepreneurial spirit of John Stevens was much admired by William Birch, resulting in the inclusion of his Hoboken estate in The Country Sears of the United States of North America.The above watercolor represents a rare opportunity to acquire an original work relating to an exceptionally scarce engraving by one of America's most celebrated early 19th century artists. The commercially successful New York is depicted from the vantage point of the home of one of its most successful businessmen, John Stevens, perhaps reflecting William Birch's belief in the economic promise of America.