JOHN BACHMANN (1814-1896): New York

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JOHN BACHMANN (1814-1896): New York.

Tinted lithograph, 21 ¾” x 30 ¼” sheet.

New York: Williams & Stevens, 1850.

The Arader print of “New York” is the second issue of John Bachmann’s famous lithograph, released under the imprint of Williams & Stevens in 1850. An earlier state - with a different publisher’s line - is known from 1849. Formerly owned by the Down Town Association in New York, the present copy is in very good condition.

Price: $6,500 ____________________________________________________________________________

Drawn by the elusive John Bachmann - a preeminent figure in the history of American lithography - this early view of Union Square looking South has all the characteristics of his later prints: the elevated and imaginary viewpoint, diagonal composition, and a high level of detail in depicting New York landmarks such as the newly erected Grace Church.

Yet the artist proposes an individualistic touch. The ships, for instance, are disproportionately tall and while the lines recede towards the battery and harbor of New York there is no doubt about the mannerist elements of Bachmann’s compositional choices. It is indeed the bold foreshortening and perspectival play that make “New York” a true collector’s item. As for the historical context of the depiction, Stokes (1918) describes Union Square and the urban growth of Lower Manhattan thus: “Union Square was created under the Commissioners’ Plan of 1807, on which it appears as ‘Union Place’, and extended from 10th to 17th Street. (...) An application to the Legislature resulted in the passage of an act, on April 5, 1832, enlarging Union Place to its present size. The iron fence and other improvements were added in 1835 and 1836, and the fountain was constructed in 1842 at the time of the completion of the Croton Aqueduct. (...) In 1835 Washington Square and the surrounding streets formed the most fashionable residential quarters of the town. By 1849 this centre of fashion had moved still farther north, and Union Place had become a beautiful residential area. In ‘New York Past, Present and Future’ Belden describes Union Place as ‘surrounded by splendid private mansions, some of which are of costly magnificence, and its vicinity is the most fashionable portion of the city.’”

Lit. 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.