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William Russell Birch was born in England in 1755 and trained as a miniaturist and enamel portraitist. In 1785, the Society of Arts in London awarded him a medal for his excellence as an enamelist. In search of greater opportunities, Birch emigrated to Philadelphia in 1794 with his seven-year-old son, Thomas, and sought to paint portraits of the leaders of the new nation. His miniature of George Washington was so admired that he was commissioned to paint at least sixty others of prominent people of the time. Birch is also known for his engravings, including a series of twenty-eight views of Philadelphia. In 1812, he moved with his son to an estate, Springland, near Bristol, Bucks County. Some of his engravings from the time are signed, "Drawn, engraved, and published by W. Birch, Springland, near Bristol." As Birch's son grew, he decided to follow in his father's footsteps as an artist. He collaborated with his father on engravings, signing, "Wm. Birch and Son." William Birch lived at Springland until 1828. He then returned to Philadelphia, where he lived until his death in 1834.
Education and Training
Birch was trained as a miniaturist and enamel portraitist in Bristol, Bucks County, and London, England.
Teachers and Influences
Sir Joshua Reynolds, London, England
Painter Benjamin West of London, wrote a letter of recommendation on Birch's behalf to the Hon. William Bingham when Birch emigrated to America
Connection to Bucks County
William Russell Birch moved to Springland, an estate near Bristol, Bucks County in 1812. He lived there with his son, Thomas, until 1828.
Colleagues and Affiliations
His son, Thomas Birch
Major Group Exhibitions
Columbianum, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1795
Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1811, 1813-1814, 1818-1819, 1824, 1827, 1830, 1838, 1861
Maryland Historical Society, Baltimore, Maryland
American Academy, New York, New York
Apollo Association, New York, New York
Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Published his engraved prints at Hampstead Heath, London, England, 1788-1791
Delicies de la Grande Bretagne, Vol. 4, London, England, 1791
Philadelphia Views, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1802, 1841
Country Seats of the United States, 1808
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