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View, New Jersey, Passaic, Pisaiack Falls in the Province of New Jersey Thomas Davies, Antique Print, 1770s

$2,800

Thomas Davies (c. 1737-1812) (after)
A North View of the Pisaiack Falls in the Province of New Jersey in North America
London: c. 1770s
Hand-colored engraving
14.25 x 19.5 inches, overall
$2,800

The dramatic site of Passaic Falls near Paterson, New Jersey (known today as Great Falls of the Passaic River) is featured in this Colonial-era engraving, based on a drawing by a British army officer. Three Native Americans, presumably a family, stand on the shore in the foreground. The woman looks out at the falls. The boy, holding a bow and arrow, watches the man aim a gun at a bird flying over the river to the right. The season appears to be spring, with a flock of birds flying toward the hill in the background. The subtitle notes that the height of the falls is 67 feet and that the scene was drawn on site by Davies, identified as a captain lieutenant of the Royal Regiment of Artillery. The engraver and publisher are not identified and the print is not dated. Nonetheless, Davies published six engravings of his waterfalls in the collection Scenographia Americana in 1768 and was a captain from 1771 to 1781, which suggests this engraving was made sometime in the 1770s.

Description

The Great Falls of the Passaic River and surrounding area in New Jersey is today part of the Paterson Great Falls National Historical Park. The waterfall is one of the largest in the United States, currently estimated at 77 feet in height, and was significant in the economic development of the region from the late 18th century when Alexander Hamilton recognized its potential for powering mills. Another British 18th century engraving of the Great Falls, A View of the Falls on the Passaick, or Second River in the Province of New Jersey, was engraved by Paul Sandby after a sketch by Thomas Pownall, and published in 1761 and 1768.

Thomas Davies was a British military officer and artist, best known for his drawings and watercolors of topographical subjects, especially views of Canada, and of birds. He was trained in topographical drawing while attending the Royal Military Academy in Woolwich in London in 1755. In a pre-photographic age, military draftsmen were taught to make surveys and accurately record landscape features for strategic purposes. From 1757, he served as an artillery officer in campaigns against the French in Canada and Upstate New York. In the early 1760s, he made surveys, maps and drawings of the St. Lawrence River and surrounding region for the army. In 1766 he produced a series of sketches of American waterfalls. He returned to England for six years beginning in 1767, and exhibited his views of America and botanicals at the Royal Academy in London. In 1768 he published six engravings of waterfalls in the collection Scenographia Americana. In 1771 was promoted to captain and placed in command of a newly formed company of artillery at Woolwich. His work from the mid 1760s on may have been influenced by that of Paul Sandby, who like Davies was a military draftsman whose drawings and watercolors also demonstrated an artistic vision beyond the conventions of documenting topographical features. Davies developed an accomplished artistic style and achieved recognition for his work while rising steadily through the ranks of the military, achieving the rank of lieutenant-general in 1803. During the 1770s and 1780s he served in various postings in America, Quebec, the Maritime Provinces of Canada and the West Indies, interspersed with stints at Woolwich. From 1790 he remained in London. Davies also published articles on ornithology and zoology, and was elected a fellow of the Royal Society of London and a member of the Linnean Society. His works today are in the collections of the British Library and Natural History Museum in London, the New York Historical Society, the Royal Ontario Museum, and many others.

Full publication information: “Drawn on the Spot by Thos. Davies Capt. Lieut. of the Royal Regt. of Artillery.”

Condition: Generally very good, with rich early, possibly original hand color, and having the usual overall light wear, toning, scattered pale foxing and browning, soft creases. Top and side margins trimmed to image, slightly irregularly, as typical for separately issued prints of this period.

Reference:

Hubbard, R.H. “Davies, Thomas.” Dictionary of Canadian Biography. http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/davies_thomas_5E.html (3 October 2013).

Additional information

Century

18th Century