Thomas Birch (1779-1851)

Thomas Birch was a marine, landscape, portrait, and miniature painter. He came to the United States from England with his father in 1794 and settled in Philadelphia. He studied under his father, William Russell Birch, the noted enamelist and miniature painter. During the period 1799 to 1800 he worked with his father as William Birch & Son designing, engraving, and publishing views of Philadelphia. Around 1806, Thomas Birch began painting portraits, in both oil and watercolor, as well as marine subjects. He became especially noted for his ship portraits, seascapes, and winter scenes, as well as paintings of naval battles of the War of 1812. Although his primary residence was in Philadelphia, Birch also painted in New Jersey, visiting Bordentown several times and painting views at Point Breeze, the Delaware River estate of the exiled Joseph Bonaparte, former king of Naples and Spain. He also painted an early view of the town of Nantucket, although he may not have actually traveled there. Despite the respect of his peers, he died poor, discouraged by a lack of patronage.

An honorary member of the National Academy of Design, he exhibited at the Society of Artists of Pennsylvania, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (1811-1862), the Apollo Association (1838-1839), the American Art-Union (1838-1850), the American Academy (1833-1835), the Maryland Historical Society (1848-1858), the Brooklyn Art Association (1872), and the National Academy of Design (1832-1845). His works are in the collections of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, the Pennsylvania Historical Society, the New York Historical Society, the Brooklyn Museum, the Shelburne Museum in Vermont, and the Nantucket Historical Association.

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