View of Lower Ferry on the Kentucky River

Artist: George Beck, 1748-1812

Gouache and watercolor on paper

Ref. No. 070320_157

17” x 23” image size (21 3/8” x 27 3/8” frame size)

Painting is inscribed, View of lower ferry on Kentucky River Geo. Beck 1812, on an applied label attached to the reverse (see additional photo). This painting, likely #191 of the exact title, was entered by his wife in 1814 at the fourth annual exhibition of the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. She would seem to be the scribe of the identification label affixed to the back of the painting. The condition is compromised with sharp colors but water damage is present at an isolated area in the center and the lower margin. There is an area of paint loss (visible when enlarging detail image) to viewers extreme right on limestone outcrops above the ferry road. Several pieces of laid paper are applied on the reverse side of the painting in the affected area for reinforcement indicating an injury at an early date. In 1821 Mary Beck shipped some of her late husband’s drawings and paintings to be sold, entrusted to her Lexington friend Anna Maria Pohl who now lived in St. Louis. These works were damaged in transit and reportedly brought little. Considering the early reinforcement to this painting, it could well have been in that shipment. It now is certainly a good candidate for having restoration to this area.

George Beck is credited as being one of three, early landscape artists who immigrated to America around 1800. Beck arrived in Norfolk, Virginia in 1795, and shortly thereafter moved to Baltimore, Maryland, where his important work, View of Baltimore from Howard Park, can be seen at the Maryland Historical Society. George Washington acquired two of Beck’s landscapes, which hung at Mt. Vernon. Although well received by a few, life was tough for a landscape artist in the age of portraiture. Beck moved several times in the next few years before settling at Lexington, Kentucky. In 1806 he taught math with his wife Mary (also an artist) instructing young ladies. However, he certainly did not abandon art as evidenced by his display of ten, identified-Kentucky landscapes among fifteen entries catalogued under his name at the annual Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts exhibitions between 1811 and 1814. 

This painting and the next example, were owned in the mid-19th century by John Conover of Michigan. Evidently he had an interest in early American landscape art, as a good Robert Scott Duncanson View of Asheville, North Carolina was also among his estate. Works by Beck are in the collections of: Missouri Historical Society, Mount Vernon, Colonial Williamsburg, and the Maryland Historical Society.



"Property Of Rear Admiral Edward P. Moore And Barbara Bingham Moore." Sotheby's Auction Catalog September 26, 2008: Lots 35, 72, and 73.

Kentucky the Master Painters by Estill Curtis Pennington, Cane Ridge Publishing House, 2008, pp. 13-14

Thomas, Deborah. "The Landscapes of George Beck." The Magazine Antiques November 1992: pp. 746-753.

Whitley, Edna Talbott. Kentucky Antebellum Portraiture. Paris, Kentucky: National Society of Colonial Dames in America in the Commonwealth of Kentucky, 1956, p. 629.

Whitley, Edna Talbott. "George Beck: An Eighteenth Century Painter." Register, of the Kentucky Historical Society January, 1969: 20-36.