Central Park opened in 1857. In 1858, the job of improving and expanding it to transform the area into a pastoral oasis for the “toiling masses,” was awarded to Calvert Vaux, a young British architect, and Frederick Law Olmstead, an American farmer and magazine editor. Reconstruction began that same year and was completed in 1873. Fasel’s views, published in 1862, show an early — perhaps idealized — image of the Park. They also reveal how much of the Park’s scenery was manmade to mimic the beauty of nature.
The first area of Central Park to be completed was the 38-acre Ramble, portrayed in both these views. The entire area was landscaped and planted to resemble an Adirondack forest. Source of the Spring shows one of the winding paths alongside the stream known as the Gill, running through the Ramble. The actual source of the Gill was artificial, part of the manmade artifice of the Ramble. Note: Today, the Gill emanates from a pipe fed by the city reservoir, high in a rocky outcropping in the center of the Park between 76th and 77th Streets (see References below).
According to scholars Thomas Hanley and M.M. Graff, “the Cave was one of the marvels of Central Park.” It was partly manmade as well: “[T]he cave was in fact a narrow cleft, a natural fissure in the rock which was roofed over to form a tunnel.” It was designed by Olmstead and Vaux to be a destination for rowers: “Adventurous visitors, after mooring their boat, could grope their way between rocky walls and come out to daylight near the base of a stone bridge on the landward side.” By the turn of the 20th century, however, the site had become a hangout for seedy characters and was sealed. The inlet has since filled with the eroded riverbanks and debris. Note: Today, the Cave shown in View of the Cave is just north of Gill Bridge 21, near lamppost #7533 where the Gill empties into Central Park Lake. For directions there, follow Hanley and Graff’s “Tour V” (see References below).
Georg (or George) Wilhelm Fasel was a painter and lithographer who began his career in Karlsruhe, Germany, before immigrating to the United States. He is best known for his portraits, historical and religious subjects. Fasel worked in Karlsruhe from around 1829 to 1848, also exhibiting in Vienna in 1836 and visiting Rome in 1837-38. From at least 1850 to 1865 he lived in New York City, where he is known to have exhibited religious paintings at the American Art-Union. Fasel drew the six scenes of 18th-century warfare between Native Americans and colonists in Heroic Deeds of Former Times (1851) and with the lithographer Edward Valois produced a collection of 12 lithograph views, Central Park Album 1862. Fasel’s paintings include The Holy Family with St. John the Baptist (1839), The Apotheosis of Goethe, Young Roman and Wallenstein.
A complete copy of Central Park Album 1862, uncolored, is in the collection of the New York Public Library (see References below). One print from the album is also in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Apparently, in its entirety or separate print form, it is quite rare.
Full publication information: From Nature by G.W. Fasel. Lith. by G.W. Fasel and E. Valois. Entered according to Act of Congress in the year 1862 by G.W. Fasel, in the Clerks Office of the District Court of the United States for the Southern District of N.Y. Printed by J. Rau, 381 Pearl St., N.Y.
Blindstamp lower right: Birchett Brothers, Sole Agents, 35 Nassau St., New-York.
Condition: Generally very good with the usual overall light toning and wear. Some light toning from former matting, now rematted out. Hand color appears to have been applied some time ago; it is unknown whether any versions were issued in original color. Presented in gilt wooden frames with green French mats. Frames with the usual light wear, abrasions, shrinkage. The prints are from the estate of a prominent New Yorker recently active in the Central Park Conservancy; full information available to purchaser.
Bénézit, E. Dictionnaire critique et documentaire des Peintres, Sculpteurs, Dessinateurs et Graveurs. France: Librairie Gründ, 1966. Vol. 3, p. 677.
“Cave Site at the Ramble: CW77.” New York Focus: Central Park. http://www.centralpark2000.com/database/cave.html (15 August 2012).
“Central Park Album 1862.” New York Public Library Digital Gallery. http://digitalgallery.nypl.org/nypldigital/dgkeysearchdetail.cfm?trg=1&strucID=1804110&imageID=1659458&word=fasel&s=1¬word=&d=&c=&f=&k=0&lWord=&lField=&sScope=&sLevel=&sLabel=&sort=&total=14&num=0&imgs=20&pNum=&pos=1(14 August 2012).
“Gill.” Central Park Conservancy. 2010. http://www.centralparknyc.org/visit/things-to-see/great-lawn/gill.html (15 August 2012).
Groce, George C. and Wallace, David H. The New-York Historical Society’s Dictionary of Artists in America 1564-1860. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1969. p. 221.
Hanley, Thomas and M.M. Graff. “Rock Trails in Central Park. Tour V: Woodland and Waterside.” Greensward Foundation. http://www.echonyc.com/~parks/books/rocktrails5.html (15 August 2012).
Peters, Harry T. America on Stone. U.S.: Doubleday, Doran, 1931. p. 184.
“Source of the Gill: C76.” New York Focus: Central Park. http://www.centralpark2000.com/database/source.html (15 August 2012).