Thomas Birch (1799-1851) Off the Coast Oil on canvas,
Thomas Birch (1799-1851)
Off the Coast
Oil on canvas
Canvas size: 34” x 48”
Signed: T Birch
Dated and inscribed: Philadelphia1848
Off the Coast is a late oil painting by the noted American landscape and marine artist Thomas Birch. Born in England and trained in Philadelphia, Birch produced a rich body of landscape and maritime scenes that included dramatic renderings of naval battles between England and his adopted country. Birch's style masterfully assimilated the influences of seventeenth-century Dutch landscape painters like Jan van Goyen and Salomon Ruisdael, as well as later painters including Joseph Vernet, and he forged a distinctive personal style that won acclaim from American critics and collectors. Off the Coast is a striking and romantic composition that dramatizes the frail craft's confrontation with the shore's jagged rocks and exquisitely rendered stormy seas, in Birch's original interpretation of the classic narrative of man against nature in all its fury. Though he also painted landscapes, the artist became best known for his dramatic seascapes. He had never been a sailor himself and had little direct experience with boats, but still Birch made perceptive first-hand observations that allowed him to convey with accuracy not only the structure of ships but their beauty as well. His best work, as demonstrated by this painting, is characterized by clear coloring and a clean palette that convey a sense of the freshness of light or air and the fluidity of water. For these abilities, which won him highly successful exhibits at the art academies and institutions, Birch soon held the distinction of being the first ship painter in this country to gain enthusiastic public acclaim. Birch's painting is a classic American marine view as well as a compelling and beautiful image.