In Focus

Guy's Multiple Views of Brooklyn

Winter Scene in Brooklyn is one of several versions of Francis Guy’s neighborhood seen from his studio on Front Street. Its best known analogue is Brooklyn Snow Piece (Brooklyn Museum of Art), a large and heavily populated winter landscape singled out as a production of particular note by critics who attended his 1820 Shakespeare Gallery exhibition. This theme was obviously of great interest to the artist himself, who produced several versions for the same exhibition, including the artwork now housed in the Dallas Museum of Art, which is slightly smaller and absent of figures, as well as an even smaller replica now in a private collection in New York. He also executed a Summer Scene in Brooklyn (Brooklyn Historical Society) and an additional replica of the Brooklyn Museum picture with people, now in the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art (Bentonville, Arkansas).

Thus, Guy created two large versions and two small versions of each composition, with or without people, doubtless hoping for sales. The popularity of the composition as a record of the young city was such that in 1853, Louisa Coleman faithfully copied the peopled, Brooklyn version, for a work now in the collection of the Museum of the City of New York, adding to the occasional confusion in the literature over multiple replicas.

All of the extant works show a remarkably detailed view of early nineteenth-century Brooklyn, with the businesses and home along Front, James, and Fulton Streets clearly identified. As the reviewer for the Columbian enthusiastically remarked in May 1830 about the veracity of the various compositions: "the stables, barn, and old back buildings of Mr. Titus stand well contrasted with the handsome buildings of Messrs. Sands, Graham, and Birdsall, &c.;" [1]

[1] Quoted in Teresa A. Carbone, American Paintings in the Brooklyn Museum, Artists Born by 1876, volume 1 (Brooklyn Museum: 2006), 571.

Adapted from

William Keyse Rudolph, Acquisition proposal (2008.23.McD), April 2008.

Related Multimedia

Learn about Francis Guy (1760â0131820).
Collections smartphone audio about artist Francis Guy; related to Winter Scene in Brooklyn (2008.23.McD) DMA Collection

Fun Facts

The lack of people in the DMA's version of Guy's views of Brooklyn has led some to theorize that this work may have acted as a "template" for the artist to use while painting the populated variations.

Web Resources

  • Smarthistory video, Francis Guy's Winter Scene in Brooklyn
    Watch Dr. Margaret C. Conrads, Director of Curatorial Affairs, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, discuss one of Guy's depictions of his Brooklyn neighborhood.
  • Winter Scene in Brooklyn
    See the populated version of Guy's Scene in the Brooklyn Museum's online collection. (Transferred from the Brooklyn Institute of Arts and Sciences to the Brooklyn Museum, 97.13)
  • Summer View of Brooklyn
    Check out this seasonal variation on Guy's topographic theme, located in the Brooklyn Historical Society.