A pleasant and rare composition of a region important to the founding of the American nation and its merchant maritime economy, the port of Philadelphia is upriver from this junction of the Delaware Bay and River. Today the communities of New Castle and Salem line the banks, but this early in the American experience, it is still a pristine natural setting, that artist Thomas Birch fills with intriguing interest and artistry.
In what could easily be regarded as a “Hudson River style” painting performed well before their was such a label, Birch starts with an atmosphere full of a luminous soft salmon glow. This accentuates the natural foliage, wet shoreline and glassy water surface. The active waterway of ships and sloops show degrees of shadows on the many sailing vessels, and the men in the rowed craft and at rest on the shore continue to draw the eye. Close to this very moment in time, 1825, men began the construction of the Chesapeake & Delaware Canal, which when completed in 1829, shortened the sea route between Baltimore and Philadelphia by 300 miles. Today it is the only major commercial American waterway built in the 1800s that is still in use.
Birch painted marines during his 56-year career as a professional artist. His primary sources of inspiration are recorded as coming from his firsthand experiences. It is possible he painted this scene as a prelude to the changes to his local world he rightly felt were just around the bend.
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