“Afternoon by the sea at Gravesend Bay”

Cape Cod? Chesapeake Bay? England? France? It’s actually Gravesend, the town settled by British Quakers in Southern Brooklyn, as depicted in 1888 by painter William Merritt Chase.

Lovely and peaceful, isn’t it? I have no clue what block in today’s Gravesend this location would correspond to. But Gravesend Bay extends into lower New York Bay, and that’s either Staten Island or New Jersey in the distance.

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6 Responses to ““Afternoon by the sea at Gravesend Bay””

  1. T.J. Connick Says:

    A guess is made in a contemporary review of an exhibition by the Pastel Club of New York at the Wunderlich Gallery. In the May 10, 1890 edition of The Critic, the author makes a stab: “His best work is his ‘Afternoon by the Sea’ — a broad space on the cliff at Fort Hamilton, if we do not mistake, overlooking the Bay –…”

    It doesn’t look high enough for Fort Hamilton, and the view across the Narrows seems to catch the eastern shore of Staten Island from a more easterly perspective. Perhaps more likely candidates were any number of resort hotels in Bath Beach.

    Stumbled upon another nugget: Chase was refused a permit to work in Prospect Park a few weeks later. It seems that Brooklyn Parks Superintendent Aneurin Jones wanted an “amateurs only” rule on permits, and Chase had been in possession of a permit in earlier seasons because Parks personnel didn’t realize he was a pro. This Jones was apparently like something out of a Preston Sturges picture, and the papers had plenty of fun pouncing when he held to form and did something stupid. His previous position as superintendent of Central Park was also the object of newspaper attacks. When the Chase permit story hit the papers (see June 18, 1890 Sun), Parks Commissioner Brower overruled Jones and saw that Chase got his permit.

  2. wildnewyork Says:

    I think you’re probably right; Bath Beach was a summer resort back then. Great research, thanks.

    Chase painted lots of Brooklyn scenes, like this one in Bed-Stuy’s Tompkins Park:

  3. T.J. Connick Says:

    The Tompkins Park work evokes Christen Kobke. Remarkable and unexpected connections in your link: Chase’s scenes at Fort Hamilton and Prospect Park. Keep up the good work.

  4. nyc edges Says:

    Lovely painting — it’s hard to imagine that area ever being bucolic!
    and here’s a bit of trivia on how the park at the end of Cropsey Ave. got it’s name:
    “Gravesend Bay was the site of famed Central and Prospect Park landscape architect Calvert Vaux’s (1824-1895) death. On a foggy November morning in 1895, while visiting his son who lived nearby, Vaux went for a walk. He never returned, however, and his body was later found floating in the bay. There has never been a definitive cause of death, as some say he committed suicide because his work was under-appreciated and others say the fog and his unfamiliarity with the setting lead him to accidentally fall into the bay.”

  5. A lovely day in Brookyn’s Tompkins Park in 1887 « Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] Merritt Chase depicts late 19th century Brooklyn parks in several of his […]

  6. The summertime beauty of Brooklyn in the 1880s | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] was apparently taken by Brooklyn’s lovely new parks and more bucolic sections, as he painted many landscapes and scenes of everyday life in the borough’s less urban […]

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