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Thursday, February 23, 2012

Offering of the Day: A Rare View of New York Looking South from Union Square, 1850

C. Bachmann 
View Looking South from Union Square, 1850
23 1/4 x 31 inches
Framed: 37 3/4 x 45 1/2 inches
Lithograph with original hand color
Published by Williams & Stevens 353 Broadway
Drawn from nature and on stone by C. Bachman
Lith of Sarony & Major 117 Fulton St, NY

References: John W. Reps, Views and Viewmakers of Urban America, Lithographs of Towns and Cities in the United States and Canada...1825-1925. University of Missouri Press, Columbia, 1984.

Gloria Gilda Deak. Picturing America 1497-1899. From the I.N. Phelps Stokes Collection and other collections in the Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs of the New York Public Library. Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ. 1988.

In his discussion of John Bachmann, Reps states that "no finer artist of city views worked in America than John Bachmann" (160). Unfortunately, however, information concerning his life appears to be almost nonexistent making him a somewhat anonymous figure despite his vast oeuvre. His name, which is spelled both Bachmann and Bachman, strongly suggests that he was German, and that he, like many others, came to America in the mid to late 1840s due to political disturbances in his homeland. 

What we do know about Bachman is that he began his American career as a publisher of a splendid view of  New York City in 1849 as seen from a point high above Union Square looking south to the Battery and the harbor (Plate 16, p. 106). Interestingly, there are two states of this lithograph: one that identifies Bachman as the publisher and the other has a publisher's imprint of William & Stevens, 353 Broadway, but with Bachmann as the copyright claimant.

Both states bear the signature of C. Bachman as artist and lithographer. Just as the history behind John Bachman remains a mystery, so too does C. Bachman. His relationship to John remains unclear, and his name makes no further appearance on any recorded city view except for reissues in 1850 and 1854 of the original print.  Currently available in the Arader Galleries collection is this exceptional 1850 edition of this view of New York bearing the names C. Bachman and William & Stevens.

Scholar Gloria Gilda Deak discusses the notable landmarks included in this print in her book, Picturing America 1497-1899. She states that "practically every important building standing between Union Square and Wall Street can be distinguished in this large Bachman lithograph, which gives us a very comprehensive view of New York City below the oval, tree-lined 14th Street park" (387).

Deak further points out Broadway which is the thoroughfare directly to the right of the park. Notable residences of Theodore Putnam, James Sydam, Oswald Cammann and S.F Tracy among others were located in the block west of Broadway on the south side of 16th Street. To the right of the park is the corner of Broadway and 15th Street where we see the Church of the Puritans. Several key churches are in fact portrayed in the view: the Church of the Ascension, north of 10th street, and the First Presbyterian Church between 11th and 12th streets. Additionally we see the University Place Presbyterian Church, Grace Church, 9th Street Collegiate Dutch Reformed Church, and St. Mark's.

Fifth Avenue is the wide thoroughfare running parallel with the Hudson River in the lower right quarter of the view and ending at Washington Square, indicated by a dense planting of trees. Fourth Avenue is also depicted - the wide thoroughfare running parallel with Broadway and to the left of it.

Today, this lithograph is in three extremely prominent collections: the New York Public Library owns an impression of the first state in The Eno Collection of New York City Views. The Museum of the City of New York has an 1849 edition in the J. Clarence Davies Collection, 29.100.1344. Additionally, a 1849 edition is in the collection of the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C.

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