BECK, George Jacob (1748 – 1812). The Falls of the Potomac. Circa 1795 – 1798.

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BECK, George Jacob (1748-1812).

The Falls of the Potomac.
Oil on paper, laid on masonite.
c. 1801.
16 1/2" x 22 1/2" visible, 21 x 27 inches framed.


THE FIRST VIEW OF THE POTOMAC RIVER BY GEORGE WASHINGTON’S FAVORITE ARTIST


Exhibited: Views and Visions: American Landscapre before 1830. Wadsworth Atheneum - September 21, 1986 - November 30, 1986; Corcoran Gallery - January 17, 1987 - March 29, 1987.

Another example of Beck's oil of this subject hangs at Mount Vernon.

Washington was impressed by Beck's ability to capture the beauty of the Potomac and purchased two companion views of Beck's Great Falls of the Potomac, now part of the Mount Vernon Ladies' Association Union Collection.

At Hamilton's suggestion, in 1798 Beck settled in that city, then the capital of the country and its largest, most cultivated urban center; he opened drawing schools for men and women to subsidize his income, and his wife established a ladies' seminary (Olsen). However their time in Philadelphia was relatively short-lived. Beck first appears in the Philadelphia directory of 1798 as a landscape painter at 106 Walnut Street; in 1799 and 1800 on South Fifth Street near Chestnut; in 1801, 1802, 1803, at 51 South Fifth Street; and in 1804 ad 1805 as living near 51 South Fifth Street, all in very close proximity to Samuel Salter's properties... he may well have been a tenant.

The legendary beauty of the American west tempted the Becks to leave Philadelphia in 1804 and explore the western frontier: Pittsburgh, Niagara Falls, Ohio and Kentucky. The newly settled wilderness held a great appeal for [Beck], providing the opportunity of exploring relatively unspoiled nature while living in a social milieu where he and his wife hoped to attract patrons and students. In Kentucky he developed a freer style, and his works increasingly celebrated the unspoiled richness of the frontier. They reveal his fascination with the subjective power and mystery of nature (Roberta Olsen, "Drawn by New York", pages 63-66). Restoration write-up by Simon Parkes, NYC.