19th Century Prints, American Views, Aquatint, Citiscapes, Landscapes, Prints

William J. Bennett

William James Bennett (1787-1844) was a British born painter and engraver, known for his series of birds-eye views of American cities and a series of large aquatints of Niagara Falls. Born in London, Bennett studied at the Royal Academy schools, working under Westall to develop his landscape skills. He spent his late teens and early twenties traveling with the British military, first to Egypt and Malta, followed by a later appointment in Italy. His travels expanded his landscape and portraiture skills, gifting an invaluable opportunity for the young artist to sketch both ancient ruins and modern cities and capture landscapes of all visual varieties.

In 1808, Bennett became a founding member of the Associated Artists in Water Colours, and worked out of London for a time. Bennett later moved to the United States in 1826 and was elected a full member of the National Academy of Design just two years later, in 1828. At the Academy he exhibited watercolor landscapes and seascapes as well as his engravings.

From 1830-1840, Bennett produced a series of aquatint topographical city views. Based off paintings of his own and the work of others, this series was immensely successful. In his views Bennett “not only celebrated the beauty of the American landscape, he also recorded the young nation’s growing urban centers, from Boston, Buffalo, and Detroit to New Orleans and Mobile, with a special focus on New York. Bennett recorded the bustling waterfront activity of thriving ports bathed in a luminous light that unified water, ships, and architecture. Capturing the optimism of the new nation, these magnificent aquatints have been regarded as the finest folio views of 19th-century American cities, which set the stage for an independent American school of city views.” (NYPL link). Bennett later painted four views of Niagara Falls, two which became subjects for his own aquatints, two which were translated into aquatints by fellow engraver John Hill.

Below are three prints we have by Bennett, a stunning view of Richmond, a harbor scene of Boston, and (of course) a beautiful view of the Navy Yard in Washington, DC. We hope you enjoy these prints- all three are still available to view and purchase in our Georgetown location!

City of Washington: From beyond the Navy Yard. George Cooke. Published by Lewis P. Clover, 180 Fulton St. N.Y. Aquatint engraving, 1834. Engraved by W. J. Bennett. Image size 17 5/8 x 24 5/8". LINK.  One of the great views of the Nation's Capital. Washington is shown from the south bank of the Anacostia River. On the right is the Washington Navy Yard, est. 1799, behind is the original Capitol Building and to the left is the White House. REF: Deak 485, Stokes 1837 E-64.

City of Washington: From beyond the Navy Yard. By George Cooke. Published by Lewis P. Clover, 180 Fulton St. N.Y. Aquatint engraving, handcolored, 1834. Engraved by W. J. Bennett. Image size 17 5/8 x 24 5/8″. LINK.
One of the great views of the Nation’s Capital. Washington is shown from the bucolic south bank of the Anacostia River. On the right is the Washington Navy Yard, established in 1799. Behind is the original Capitol Building with the old dome. To the left sits the White House. REF: Deak 485, Stokes 1837 E-64.

Boston, from the Ship House, West End of the Navy Yard. By William J. Bennett. Published by Henry I. Megarey, New York. Handcolored aquatint, 1833.  Image size 15 5/8 x 24 1/8".  LINK.  William Bennett was both the artist and engraver of this delightful view of Boston. One of the great views of the city, Bennett was able to capture the bustling and dynamic nature of this port city at the beginning of the 19th century.

Boston, from the Ship House, West End of the Navy Yard. By William J. Bennett. Published by Henry I. Megarey, New York. Aquatint engraving, handcolored, 1833. Image size 15 5/8 x 24 1/8″. LINK.
William Bennett was both the artist and engraver of this delightful view of Boston. An attractive and colorful view of the city, Bennett was able to capture the bustling, dynamic nature of this port city at the beginning of the 19th century.

Richmond, from the Hill above the Waterworks. By Goegre Cooke. Published by Lewis P. Clover, 180 Fulton St. N.Y. Aquatint engraving, c. 1833. Engraved by W. J. Bennett. Image size 17 3/4 x 25 3/8". LINK. One of the rarest and most beautiful of Bennett's aquatints. Gloria Deak describes the print as "George Cooke's romantic celebration of Richmond's charms. . . His composition describes the winding path of the Kanawha Canal, embracing in its arc the waters of the James River, where closely clustered buildings rising from its banks define the human community. Grazing cows lend a pastoral touch, and elegant residents, sketched at their leisure on the wooded heights, are placed by the artist in the amphitheater like setting. . . ." Shown prominently is the Virginia State Capitol building which was designed by Thomas Jefferson. To the right is the Governor's mansion. To the left is City Hall (torn down in 1870) and the State Penitentiary which was designed by Benjamin Latrobe.

Richmond, from the Hill above the Waterworks. By George Cooke. Published by Lewis P. Clover, 180 Fulton St. N.Y. Aquatint engraving, handcolored, c. 1833. Engraved by W. J. Bennett. Image size 17 3/4 x 25 3/8″. LINK.One of the rarest and most beautiful of Bennett’s aquatints. Gloria Deak describes the print as “George Cooke’s romantic celebration of Richmond’s charms. . . His composition describes the winding path of the Kanawha Canal, embracing in its arc the waters of the James River, where closely clustered buildings rising from its banks define the human community. Grazing cows lend a pastoral touch, and elegant residents, sketched at their leisure on the wooded heights, are placed by the artist in the amphitheater like setting. . . .” Shown prominently is the Virginia State Capitol building which was designed by Thomas Jefferson. To the right is the Governor’s mansion. To the left is City Hall (torn down in 1870) and the State Penitentiary which was designed by Benjamin Latrobe. REF: Deak 420; Stokes 1833 E-58.

 

 

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