View of Union or Main Street in 1812
Origin: America, Massachusetts, New Bedford
Primary Support: 8 9/16 x 11 1/4in. (21.7 x 28.6cm); Pictorial Composition, excluding lower margin inscription: 8 1/8 x 10 7/8in. (20.6 x 27.6cm); Matted dimensions upon receipt 3/2008: 13 1/4 x 15 13/16in. (33.7 x 40.2cm); and Framed: 17 1/16 x 19 13/16 x 1 7/8in.
Watercolor, ink, and graphite on wove paper
Acc. No. 2008.302.1
A townscape from an elevated viewpoint looking straight down a street whose terminus is enshrouded in trees (but which, it is suggested, lies at the edge of a body of water seen beyond). Trees line the lower portion fo the street at regularly-spaced intervals but none are shown closest to the viewer where, to either side, the lots are left open and enclosed by stone walls. Below the two open lots, several buildings appear on either side of the street. In the foreground, a lone carriage progresses down the street, toward the water. Beyond the body of water, a distant shoreline is visible. The pictorial composition was created within a rectangular format laid off with pencil and straight edge. An ink inscription appears in the lower margin reserve.
The 2 3/4-inch splayed, veneered frame with gilded, cove-molded liner and black-painted sides is probably of the period of the artwork but added later (and must be examined more carefully as of 4/14/08).
Label:Less than fifty watercolors by the artist are known, all of them apparently painted for private pleasure. Some are contemporary views, while others, as in this case, are nostalgic recollections of past ones.
Russell's View of Union or Main Street is from an upper window of his father's New Bedford, Massachusetts, home, the Abraham Russell House, described by one writer as "the most imposing and genteel residence of the place." Other Russell watercolors show the home's interior and exterior.
The town of Fairhaven can be seen across the Acushnet River, while a chaise belonging to William Rotch, a prominent merchant, proceeds towards the waterfront. Reputedly, this vehicle was imported from England and, at the time, was the only chaise in town.
In 1815, Russell married Priscilla Haffords, and in 1818, the couple relocated to his mother's hometown of Philadelphia, although he continued to maintain close ties with New Bedford for the rest of his life.
Provenance:Sold by "mid-western descendants of the Russell family" to Mr. and Mrs. Bertram K. Little in 1949 (note 1); Bertram K. and Nina Fletcher Little, Brookline, Mass.; sold at auction at Sotheby Parke Bernet, New York, NY, October 21-22, 1994; purchased at that sale by Juli Grainger, CWF's donor.
Mark(s):The primary support remains hinged and has not been examined for possible watermarks as of 4/14/2008.
Inscription(s):In brown ink in foward-slanting unconnected letters in the lower margin is: "View of Union or Main Street New Bedford taken from the 3d Story Window of Abm Russell's house at the head of the Street 1812".