William Verplanck Birney

Fireside

William Verplanck Birney

Fireside

This early 20th-century oil painting by American artist William Verplanck Birney (1858-1909) depicts a bearded gentleman, probably his father, drifting off within a cosy interior.

The fire roars, while he sleeps. Warming his aching slippered feet, now bootless after the ride. The oak panelling creaks and cracks like burning logs. He’s been here before, it’s probably his favourite room. Resting in his hunt coat, surrounded by comforts.

Birney’s father was William McDowell Birney, a professor of English literature and Union Army general during the American Civil War. We’ve discovered a photograph of him here. The similarities are striking. His father died two years prior to the date of this painting, so it’s a posthumous homage. A doting son recalling a quiet moment during Dad’s later years. His grandfather, James Gillespie Birney (1792-1857), was a major contributor to the abolitionist movement.

Signed/dated lower left and held within a gilt frame.

Medium: Oil on canvas
Overall size: 23” x 19” / 59cm x 49cm
Year of creation: 1909
Provenance: Private collection, England.
Condition: Artwork presents well. Frame with some light wear.
Artist’s auction maximum: £15,059.

William Verplanck Birney

William Verplanck Birney

William Verplanck Birney was an accomplished American painter predominantly known for his contemplative genre scenes. He trained at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich. He was a member of the Philadelphia Sketch Club and the American Artists Club. The Cincinnati Art Museum holds examples.

Learn more about William Verplanck Birney in our directory.

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