The Village of Brooklyn in 1816. Engraving from Henry R. Stiles, ed. History of the City of Brooklyn…, vol. 2 (Brooklyn, New York: Published by subscription, 1869) (1869) by Henry R. StilesCrystal Bridges Museum of American Art
Francis Guy immigrated to America from England in 1795, eventually settling in Brooklyn, NY, in 1817. Brooklyn at this time still had rural character, even as it was growing.
Guy’s neighborhood was very close to the Fulton Ferry dock, a key point of access to Manhattan, as seen in this 1816 map of Brooklyn. A richly diverse community flourished here, and Guy wanted to capture it in paint.
Winter Scene in Brooklyn, Francis Guy, Dallas Museum of Art (1820) by Dallas Museum of ArtCrystal Bridges Museum of American Art
Guy made at least five paintings of the view from his second-floor residence at 11 Front Street, including this unpopulated scene.
To do so, he placed a piece of gauze in the window and traced the basic outlines in chalk. He then pressed the gauze against a dark canvas to transfer the chalk. He then painted over these outlines in oil paint to complete the scene.
Key to Brooklyn Snow Scene, painting in the collection of the Brooklyn Museum of Art. Image from Henry R. Stiles’ A History of the City of Brooklyn, II (1869) (1896)Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art
Guy represented the diversity of age, social position, occupation, and race in his neighborhood.
Winter Scene in Brooklyn (1820) by Francis GuyCrystal Bridges Museum of American Art
The barnyard of Abiel Titus, who is shown feeding his chickens, occupies the center of the painting.
His son is on horseback.
Many members of the free African American population in Brooklyn lived in Guy’s community. Some are depicted here, including a man named Samuel Foster.
Brooklyn changed dramatically in 1870 with the building of the Brooklyn Bridge.
Front Street Today - Courtesy of The Weekly Nabe, photo by Keith Williams (2012) by Keith WilliamsCrystal Bridges Museum of American Art
This image shows the intersection of Fulton and Front Streets today. Guy’s original studio at 11 Front Street would have been located just out of frame to the right. Any remaining original buildings seen in Guy’s painting were most likely sacrificed for the monumental bridge building project.