Thomas Birch (1779-1851)

American

The first American marine artist- arguably anyway -Birch forms a bridge from the ‘old world masters’ to the post-colonial pride of the new world. Built upon the foundations of his father’s influence and admiration for the works of french artist Claude-Joseph Vernet, he would produce some of the finest marine paintings of the early 19th century.

Born in London, the family emigrated to the United States in 1794. As a teenager Birch studied and assisted at the foot of his father, William Russell Birch, a noted enamel miniaturist and engraver. Together they sketched and engraved images for an important volume detailing the growth of their new home of Philadelphia. Thomas also painted many now famous images of the naval engagements of the War of 1812.

Painting chiefly in oil, he obtain wide critical acclaim and is credited with inspiring generations of American artists to follow with his marines and landscapes, including Thomas Cole, who studied in Philadelphia as a young man. Birch’s realistic excellence at handling a diverse stable of subjects earns him a place amongst the first American artists of renown.

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