This fine and luminous pair of paintings by E.T. Baker shows two views of New York Harbor and one of the ferry services between Williamsburg in Brooklyn and Manhattan near Castle Clinton in Battery Park.
Ferry services between Brooklyn and Manhattan were recorded as early as 1638 when summoning a ferry meant blowing a horn tied to a bankside tree and payment was required in wampum, a key currency in Dutch New Amsterdam. But it wasn't until the early 19th century when the invention of the steamboat combined with the tide of immigration and dwindling living space in Manhattan inspired many property owners along the banks of the East and Hudson Rivers to repurpose their land for ferry ports between Manhattan and the outer boroughs and New Jersey. The first commercially successful steamboat was a ferry between New York and Albany, and the great success of the New York ferries would spur later innovations like double ended vessels to speed loading and unloading.
By the time E.T. Baker came to paint these views New York's ferry services had exploded. Railroads brought passengers to the terminals from cities and suburbs even further out. Over a thousand ferry trips a day were available just across the East River, with 33 million passengers crossing by 1860. By 1870, that number swelled to 50 million.
Here Castle Clinton is also on the right as in "Ferry Arriving…", but we're in a different location having swung around to the other side of Manhattan, heading toward the Hudson River. Castle Garden and Manhattan's skyline fans out ahead and left. Bathed in warm light, ferry passengers relax along the deck while in the foreground two fishermen work nets from a small rowboat.
Both this painting and its companion piece are awash in light, featuring a magical evening sky with tones of orange and yellow. Baker was at the top of his output when he painted this duo, clearly fascinated by the play of sunlight upon this famous waterway. The light and reflection in these paintings are best when viewed in person.
Sold as a pair with Baker's "Ferry Arriving"
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