James Hamilton, View of Philadelphia

James Hamilton: View of Philadelphia (Undated) Oil on canvas
View of Philadelphia
Oil on canvas
Credit Line
Musuem purchase, 2012
40 x 60 in.

View of Philadelphia is a dynamic depiction of the harbor and the US Navy Yard at Wharton Street in the Southwark section of the city. In 1801, this area was chosen to be the first government-owned shipyard in the United States. It served this function until 1864, at which time, due to the Navy’s expanding needs, a new site was proposed and construction began on what is now the Philadelphia Navy Yard in South Philadelphia. Steamboats, recreational vessels, and military ships share the harbor. The long diagonal lines found in the sweep of the bobbing ships’ sails, the crashing waves, and the seething clouds add energy to the painting. As rays of sunlight penetrate the image, Hamilton deftly captures the drama of light passing through the clouds in a stormy sky.

Hamilton captures the bustling, commercial port of Philadelphia around the year 1850. Many of the historic buildings he depicts can be identified. Toward the left side of the painting are Philadelphia’s famous “twinship houses,” which were built in 1821 and demolished in the late 19th century. On the right, the white spire of Christ Church is visible. Constructed in 1744, the nearly 200-foot-spire was the tallest structure in the United States during most of Hamilton’s lifetime, and it was a primary landmark for those sailing along the Delaware River.

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  • I had the pleasure to explore the Woodmere galleries today. Thank you for opening your doors free of admission on Sundays, we greatly enjoyed ourselves and would like to visit again! - Steve

    Steven Sergi
  • wonderful work , provocative the waves with a warm soft movement with highlighted caps. The ship in the foreground makes you feel the history and life in the 1800's. It's crowed with boats in the background makes me think about how Philadelphia is today and how in the 1800s it was a port of intrest.