As an interesting historical aside, Weehawk was the site in 1804 of the famous duel between Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr, which was reinacted in the 2004 bicentennial.
The caption under the title reads: “To Thomas Dixon Esqr. This Plate is Respectfully Inscribed by his Obliged Servt. Willm. G. Wall.” This is the first state of the print; Wall advertised it in June 1823.
Gloria Gilda Deák describes this print at length in her book Picturing America, a compendium of important prints in the New York Public Library collection. She cites a published account in 1823 that praised Wall’s view as “the most accurate description that we have seen” made from “the Mountain at Weehawk,” affording him a sweeping view of the city, its harbor and islands. Deák also provides this historical context:
William Guy Wall has given us matching views of New York much in the manner of two sides of the same coin. Here we view the city from the Jersey side, looking across the Hudson River. In the complementary view, entitled New York from Heights near Brooklyn… we are invited to an aspect from across the East River.
Both views are exceedingly well balanced, and both retain an eighteenth-century elegance in the clarity and fluid handling of the topographic projection, qualities enhanced by the skillful aquatinting of John Hill. Wall’s style is generically descended from that of the English artist Paul Sandby, a distinguished watercolorist who introduced the art of aquatint to England. Here, the southeast orientation of Wall’s pastoral-urban scene allows us to look well out into the upper harbor and admire New York’s advantageous location.
The steeple at the right end of Manhattan Island is Trinity Church; at the extreme left is Saint John’s Chapel. Connected to the tip of the island by a bridge is Castle Clinton (later Castle Garden). Governor’s Island, with Castle Williams, lies just off Manhattan. In the right middle ground is Stevens Point. On July 12th of the year this view was made, the New York Evening Post suggested that Castle Clinton be converted into public baths: “It would yield a greater revenue to the city than any other plan that has been proposed respecting it. Bathing might easily be rendered a fashionable as well as a healthy amusement.”
William Guy Wall was a watercolorist and landscape painter. Born and trained in art in Ireland, he emigrated to New York City in 1818, where he spent the next ten 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 published a set of twenty views, including New York City and vantage points along the Hudson River, engraved by John Hill, and published as the Hudson River Portfolio in several editions from 1820 to 1828. 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 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 emigrated to the U.S. in 1816 and continued engraving for the next 20 years, first in Philadelphia and later in New York. Hill is best known for his pair of New York City prints (the offered New York From Weehawk and the companion view New York from Heights near Brooklyn); The Landscape Album, a series of large aquatints of American landscapes, after the paintings by Joshua Shaw; and the Hudson River Portfolio after paintings by William Guy Wall. His son and grandson, John William Hill and John Henry Hill, also became noted landscape painters.
Condition: Generally very good, the colors bright and clean, the etching well defined, with the usual overall light toning and wear. Short tear about 4 inches in right margin extending slightly into wooded area in print, professionally restored, barely noticeable. Three additional short tears 2 inches or less into margins, professionally restored, largely matted out, barely noticeable. Small irregular tear in upper right margin, professionally restored, barely noticeable. Professionally rebacked on Japanese paper to restore tears and for support. Extremely faint oxidation in outer margins. Plate mark present on top and bottom but not on sides, probably as issued. In gold leaf frame with raised strap decoration, silk mat with gold-leaf bevel. Frame with usual wear.
Deák, Gloria Gilda. Picturing America. Princeton University Press: 1989. Item 336, pp. 229-230.
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. Checklist of John Hill. number 95.
Stokes, I.N. Phelps. American Historical Prints. c.1820-23-E-98.
Stokes, I.N. Phelps. The Iconography of Manhattan Island 1498-1909. Vol. III, pp.557-579, plate 92.