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View, New York City, City Hall, Hill Wall, Antique Aquatint Print, 1826

William Guy Wall (1792-after 1864) (after)
John Hill (1770-1850) (aquatint engraver)
City Hall
Behr & Kahl, New York: December 20, 1826
Hand-colored aquatint and engraving
17 x 28.25 inches, image
20.25 x 29.75 inches, sheet overall

A separately issued Federal period view of City Hall in New York City, a large, elegant building designed by John McComb, Jr., and dedicated in 1812. Atop the cupola is a figure of Justice designed by John Dixey, which was later modified in 1830. Print historian Gloria Gilda Deák praises this print as “perhaps the finest and most important engraved view of the municipal building. The artist has included just enough of the landscaped grounds and adjacent buildings to indicate the relation of the palatial structure to its immediate surroundings.” Beneath the title in the lower margin, the print is dedicated to Philip Hone, Mayor of New York from 1825 to 1826 when the print was published. Other impressions of it are in the collections of the New York Historical Society, the New York Public Library, the Smithsonian American Art Museum and the Yale University Art Gallery.

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Description

Gloria Gilda Deák describes this print in her book Picturing America, a compendium of important prints in the New York Public Library collection and also provides this historical context:

We are facing northeast. The building on the extreme left of City Hall is the Bridewell (city prison), built in 1775-1776 and removed in 1838. … The building between it and the City Hall is the old Almshouse. In 1814 it had been converted to the use of a number of societies (such as the American Museum and the New-York Historical Society) and renamed the New York Institution. … The [former Almshouse] building was destroyed by fire in 1854. To the right of City Hall is probably the old Gaol, shown shortly before it was remodeled between 1830 and 1832 for the housing public records.

William Guy Wall was a watercolorist and landscape painter, and print publisher. Born and trained in art in Ireland, he emigrated to New York City in 1818, where he spent the next 10 years. There he won wide recognition for his views of the City and the Hudson River. In addition to New York From Weehawk and the companion view New York from Heights near Brooklyn, he painted a set of twenty views, from New York City to successive vantage points along the Hudson River, engraved by John Hill and published in the Hudson River Portfolio (1821-1825). A founding member of the National Academy, he exhibited there and at the Pennsylvania Academy. He continued painting and exhibiting his work over the next several decades relocating several times between New England, New York State and Dublin, Ireland. Several of his original watercolors are in the collection of the New York Historical Society as well as the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

John Hill (1770-1849) began his career as an aquatint engraver of landscapes in his native London, publishing a series of views after the paintings of J.M.W. Turner and others. He immigrated to the U.S. in 1816 and continued engraving for the next 20 years, first in Philadelphia and later in New York. Hill is well known for his pair of New York City prints New York From Weehawk and the companion view New York from Heights near Brooklyn after views by William Guy Wall (1792-1864). He also did the engravings after views by Wall for the Hudson River Portfolio (1821-1825), a set of 20 hand-colored aquatint views along over 200 miles of the Hudson River, from New York City to the Adirondacks. Published by Henry J. Megarey in New York with text by John Agg, the Hudson River prints are considered amongst the finest produced in 19th-century America. Hill is also renowned for his 20 hand colored aquatint views after paintings by Joshua Shaw published between 1820 and 1821 in what is familiarly called The Landscape Album. His son and grandson, John William Hill and John Henry Hill, also became noted landscape painters.

Behr and Kahl was a printing, engraving and bookselling business in New York City operated by Charles Behr and Frederick Kahl.

Dedication below title: “To the Hon’ble Philip Hone, Mayor of the City of New York This Plate is Respectfully Inscribed by his Obliged Servt. W.G. Wall.”

Full publication information: Drawn by W.G. Wall Engraved printed & couloured by J. Hill. Published by Behr & Kahl, Dec. 20th, 1826.”

Condition: Generally very good, the colors bright and clean, the etching well defined, with the usual overall light toning and wear.

References:

Deák, Gloria Gilda. Picturing America. Princeton University Press: 1989. Item 349, pp. 237-238.

Fielding, Mantle. Dictionary of American Painters, Sculptors and Engravers. Green Farms, Connecticut : Modern Books and Crafts, 1926, rev. ed. 1974. p. 169 (Hill).

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. pp. 315-316 (Hill); pp. 657 (Wall).

Koke, Richard, J. A checklist of the American engravings of John Hill (1770-1850). New York: New York Historical Society, 1961. p. 50 (Behr & Kahl). Online:
https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=mdp.39015015670485&view=plaintext&seq=89&q1=city%20hall (28 April 2021).

Additional information

Century

19th Century