Thomas Birch

Life Dates

Thomas Birch was a painter and engraver who credited with introducing to America the European culture of marine paintings. Birch originated from London, England, but arrived in the Philadelphia in 1793 as an assistant to his father, enamel painter William Birch, in producing a series of 29 engraved plates depicting local scenery known as Birch’s Views of Philadelphia (1800), which received interest from both John Adams and Thomas Jefferson.

Birch primarily worked in portraiture until his attention turned to capturing seascapes. Regarded as the first major American ship portraitist, Birch’s ideals remained an inspiration for those to follow. His work makes for a sound reference of buildings that existed in the Philadelphia and New York areas during the Early Republic. Many of his paintings were translated into engravings as well. Beginning in 1811 and for forty years onward, Birch would exhibit work at the Philadelphia Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA). His work can be found in the collections of the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Smithsonian, and PAFA, among others.

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