JOHN WILLIAM HILL (1812-1879), engraved by Henry Papprill (1816-1903): New York From the Steeple of St. Paul’s Church Looking East, South and West.
JOHN WILLIAM HILL (1812-1879), engraved by Henry Papprill (1816-1903):
New York From the Steeple of St. Paul’s Church Looking East, South and West.
Aquatint engraving with original hand color, 27 ¾” x 41 ½” sheet, 33” x 47” framed.
New York: Henry I. Megarey 1849.
The present copy of Hill and Papprill’s iconic view from the steeple of Saint Paul’s Church is not only in excellent condition with minimal signs of wear; it also displays a vivid and sophisticated color scheme that blends the fading tones of the aerial perspective with a dynamic interplay of light and shadow. Thus, every facade has its own hue with trees casting deep shadows into the streets and even clouds reflecting in the water. The Arader print was formerly owned by the Down Town Association in New York.
The immediate predecessor to Smith and Wellstood’s 1855 view from the Latting Observatory, Hill’s panorama of New York derives its fascination from the 19th century taste in the representation of heights per se. On the one hand, an elevated viewpoint allowed for accurate surveying, one the other it presented an artistic challenge that translated into visual extravagances such as John Bachmann’s antebellum view of New York from 1859. John Hill and Henry Papprill provide a comparatively accessible view; despite using perspectival techniques such as curved angles - based on the effects of large-scale panoramic paintings - the documentary character of the print prevails over any mannerist tendencies that will become ever more prominent in the following decades.
Indeed, much of its charm lies in the immediate recognizability of the intersection between Broadway, Ann Street, and Fulton Street. It was home to Barnum’s museum and the famous daguerreotype gallery of Mathew Brady. A colorful and fashionable neighborhood in mid-19th century New York, it provided John William Hill with ample opportunities to prove his artistry as a master of the aquatint.
Having absorbed the lessons of his father, he condenses the experience of a still young career into this print which stands as an innovative collectible and artistic touchstone of the Golden Century of American Printmaking.
Lit. Elen Deming: “The Country and the City: John Bachmann’s Views of Manhattan & Central Park”, in Landscape Journal 19 (2000), pp. 111-125. Gloria Deak: “Picturing America, 1497-1899: Prints, Maps, and Drawings Bearing on the New World Discoveries and on the Development of the Territory that is now the United States”, Princeton 1988. John William Reps: “Views and Viewmakers of Urban America: Lithographs of Towns and Cities in the United States and Canada, Notes on the Artists and Publishers, and a Union Catalog of Their Work, 1825-1925”, Columbia 1984. Isaac Newton Phelps Stokes: “The Iconography of Manhattan Island”, New York 1915-1928.