A fine 1876 George Douglas / F. Kimball Rogers low-perspective view of Gloucester, Massachusetts. The view looks northeast towards Gloucester from Rocky Neck, an outcropping near Smith's Cove. Coverage extends from Fort Point (at left), to Harbor Cove (at center), and Duncan Point (at right). Several churches, notable for their tall steeples, are recognizable and labeled, including the Universalist Church, at left, the Orthodox and Unitarian Church, at center, and the Catholic, Baptist, and Methodist churches at right. The Sawyer School (far right), Collins School (just left of center) and City Hall (just right of center) are also recognizable.
American Bird's-Eye City Views
The tradition of the bird's-eye city view emerged in the United States in the middle part of the 19th century and coincided with the commercial development of lithographic printing. While before the rise of lithography, the ability to own and display artwork in the home was largely limited to the extremely wealthy, lithographic printing made it possible for everyone to own visually striking artwork. A robust trade developed in portraits of political leaders, allegorical and religious images, and city views.
City views were being produced in the United States as early as the 1830s, but the genre exploded after the American Civil War (1861 - 1865). Bridging the gap between maps and pictures, most 19th century American Bird's-eye views presented cities to the public high vantage points. Some were imagined, but others were drawn from hot-air balloons or nearby hills. The presentation, combining high elevation, commercial interest, and new printing technology created a uniquely American art form, as described by historian Donald Karshan,
Some print connoisseurs believe that it was only with the advent of the full-blown city-view lithograph that American printmaking reached its first plateau of originality, making a historical contribution to the graphic arts. They cite the differences between the European city-view prints and the expansive American version that reflects a new land and a new attitude toward the land.
The vogue for bird's-eye city views lasted from about 1845 to 1920, during which period some 2,400 cities were thus portrayed, some multiple times. Although views were produced in many urban centers, the nexus of view production in the United States was Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The major American viewmakers were Stoner, Wellge, Bailey, Fowler, Hill, Ruger, Koch, Burleigh, Norris, and Morse, among others.
Publication History and Census
This view is based upon a painting by Frank Kimball Rogers, who drew it in 1875. Roger's imprint and the date are located within the plate in the lower right. It is frequently misattributed to Hugh Fitz Lane, Gloucester's most prominent 19th century painter and viewmaker. Lane issued a similar view, also from Rocky Neck, in 1859 (see Geographicus GloucesterView-lane-1859), but it takes only a cursory examination to recognizes that they are completely different paintings. The present view was transferred to lithographic stone and published George Douglas in 1876. Of Douglas, we have found no trace. Scarce. Reps notes examples at the Boston Athenaeum, the Mariners Museum at Newport News, and the Yale University Art Gallery.
Good. Wide margins. Some mat burn. Well executed older restoration evident in the upper right, where there are two cleanly repaired tears from top margin.
Boston Athenaeum, D B64G5 V.g.(no.3). OCLC 191311009. Reps, John, Views and Viewmakers of Urban America (University of Missouri, Columbia, 1984), #1455.