Sketchbook

By: Oddie, Walter Meigs (1807 or 1808 - 1865) and Henry Meigs (1782-1861)

Price: $25,000.00

Quantity: 1 available

Book Condition: Good


Original watercolors of rural Manhattan as it appeared in 1828. Among these, and captioned, are a farmhouse on Broadway and 8th Street; Kips Bay, showing a boy sailing a small craft with a farmhouse in the background; a house in Bloomingdale, the location of an early village now the Upper West Side along the river between 96th and 106th Streets; and a stately mansion surrounded by fields and less important buildings we would conjecture in or around Bloomingdale but captioned, surely incorrectly, the Battery. Most of the paintings are uncaptioned. Of these, some are surely the Upper Hudson area, or are scenes that we can't tell whether they are upstate or in the present day city. The artist also ventured away from the New York areas. Among the non-New York paintings are a depiction of the Cape Pogue Lighthouse on Martha's Vineyard, which still stands; Fowey Harbour, which is in Cornwall; and a few scenes which look very much like Scotland. Oblong, 14 by 19.5 cm. 55 watercolors, generally fully finished. Although the sketchbook has a label on its front board bearing the name of Walter Oddie, who was a listed artist, we believe a good amount of the artwork contained in this sketchbook is of his father-in-law, Henry Meigs. Meigs had been a U.S. Congressman from New York and also held a number of other political positions in the city over the course of his career. More pertinently, Meigs was known to be an amateur painter, and as such, an inspiration to Oddie. Given Oddie’s youth at the time -- he was 20 or 21 years old – and from his diary for the years 1828 and 1829, now housed in the Winterthur Library, we know he was just starting to paint, we find it inconceivable that he would have had the skill yet to produce the sensitive and fine renderings of nature and buildings that typify this sketchbook. Further underlying our thinking about attribution is that some of captioning only makes sense if Meigs were the primary artist. We do consider it quite likely that Oddie may have done some of the sketchier work contained herein, as well as contributing in bits and pieces to his father-in-law’s work, as well as perhaps copying some of it in this sketchbook. To us, it isn’t really so important who was responsible for particular paintings in the sketchbook. Rather, the significance lies in the recording of New York City and its surroundings at the time – we suspect that there may be no recording anywhere of some of the buildings and locations at this time. And of course, not to be minimized, is the beauty of the better paintings contained in the sketchbook. Whatever the degree of Oddie’s contribution, the sketchbook does have something to say about his career, and visa versa, given that it contains the type of artwork for which he became known later. Oddie was born in Maryland, Washington, D.C. or possibly New Orleans, but spent almost his entire life in New York, and more specifically, New York City, Brooklyn or Long Island. In 1828, the year most of the watercolors in the catalogue were executed, Oddie was spending much of his time in the city. Once Oddie’s interest in painting was sparked, he was believed to have been largely self-taught, but he did come to study art with Hudson River School painter Robert Walter Weir and Anthony Lewis De Rose, a portrait and historical painter. From the diary we know that Oddie did work with De Rose in 1829; we believe that his tutelage with Weir came later. From the diary we know that Oddie was regularly going to art exhibits and critiquing what he saw. The diary also discloses, or corroborates our prior sense, that Oddie sometimes would work off of engraved prints. To what degree he was merely copying the prints, as opposed to using the prints as a spur to his own imagination, we can not determine with certitude. We tend to think the views of Scottish and Welsh castles contained in the Sketchbook were done by Meigs, not Oddie, and so they might well have been done from life. From the diary we know that Oddie had some day job that occupied him during the week, and so he did most of his painting at that time on the weekends, when he would often go for long hikes along the Hudson. Oddie also refers in the diary to having been in Hudson, then and now, the county seat of Columbia County, and so it is very plausible that some of the upstate scenery is from around there. (Again, we think some of these paintings may have been done by Meigs.) Oddie would become an associate member of the National Academy of Design, where he frequently exhibited his artwork. One further note – we spoke of questioning one caption referring to the Battery. In 1828, the urbanized part of the city didn’t even reach 14th Street, but the Battery, as the oldest part of the city, was thoroughly urbanized. Thus the painting could not be of the Battery. But the landscape is very consistent with the topography of Upper Manhattan.

Title: Sketchbook

Author Name: Oddie, Walter Meigs (1807 or 1808 - 1865) and Henry Meigs (1782-1861)

Categories: Americana, Albums and Sketchbooks, New York City,

Publisher: New York City, 1828

Binding: Hardcover. Cloth spine. Marbled pastedown on

Book Condition: Good

Item lbs: 4.50 Item lbs

Seller ID: 006534