Penn Library Exhibitions

Robert Montgomery Bird: Writer and Artist

Two Trips
Dr. Bird travelled to Great Britain in 1834. Long before that date, he had started to prepare himself for what he would "see" when he got there. "Pier at Margate," for instance, is a relatively early English view--it dates to his days as a student at Penn--but it is taken "from an original" by his drawing master, Jeremy Coxe (see first image below).

Boime's point (see panel entitled "Depicting the Region") about the significance of the gaze from above characteristic of American landscapists gains a kind of backhanded support from the considerably more "level" angle of gaze Dr. Bird utilizes in his English paintings, by comparison with what he used in many of his American scenes. Unlike America, England presented Dr. Bird with no view over which he felt entitled to seek domination.

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[IMAGE]
"Pier at Margate: from an Original by J. Cox--May 2. '26"
Watercolor, unsigned
Courtesy of Mr. and Mrs. Robert Montgomery Bird

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[IMAGE]
"Chester Cathedral. May, 1834"
Watercolor, unsigned
Courtesy of Mr. and Mrs. Robert Montgomery Bird

On May 13, Dr. Bird landed at Liverpool. This accomplished view of Chester Cathedral, very different from Bird's American scenes in its approach to the English setting, suggests the intense interest he brought to his visual experience of England.

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[IMAGE]
Untitled view of London, looking over the Thames in the direction of Westminster Abbey
Watercolor, untitled, undated, and unsigned
Courtesy of Mr. and Mrs. Robert Montgomery Bird

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[IMAGE]
Untitled view of a ship in heavy seas
Watercolor, untitled, unsigned, and dated "Aug. 1834"
Courtesy of Mr. and Mrs. Robert Montgomery Bird

This tiny watercolor may have been made during Dr. Bird's return trip home to Philadelphia. He sailed from Liverpool on the Carroll of Carrollton, a ship whose captain was his brother Thomas Jefferson Bird.

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Mary Elizabeth Mayer and Dr. Robert Montgomery Bird were married on July 13, 1837. Their wedding trip took them to central Pennsylvania, and Dr. Bird depicted the countryside through which they travelled in several watercolor sketches.

[IMAGE]
"Susquehanna from Duncan's Head.
View from Duncan's Head, down the Susquehanna,
showing P[enn?] Canal, mouth of Juniata, [illegible].
View from Duncan's Head. Monday, July 24th, 1837"
Watercolor, unsigned
Courtesy of Mr. and Mrs. Robert Montgomery Bird

Three different titles--one faint (upper left), one dark (lower left), and one faint (bottom center)--and the date (lower right) are accompanied by additional, very faint pencilled annotations ("light"; "canal"; "bank"; etc.) on the surface of the watercolor itself. All of these notes indicate the ways in which Dr. Bird's sketches attempted to provide information that would permit the artist to complete more finished versions at leisure, after his travels were ended.

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[IMAGE]
"Chickesalunger Rock, Susquehanna R.
above Columbia (looking down) July 1837 ('53)"
Watercolor, unsigned
Courtesy of Mr. and Mrs. Robert Montgomery Bird

This painting is another example of those whose multiple dates indicate that they were revisited by Dr. Bird in the 1850s.

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Last update: Wednesday, 11-Jul-2012 13:19:51 EDT
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