William Birch (painter)

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Benjamin Henry Latrobe's Bank of Pennsylvania, from the 4th edition of William Birch's Views of Philadelphia, 1827–8.

William Russell Birch (9 April 1755 – 7 August 1834) was an English miniature painter, enameler, and landscape engraver and designer.


Birch was born in Warwickshire, the son of Anne, née Russell, and physician Thomas Birch. He spent his early childhood in Warwick and was apprenticed to a jeweler, Thomas Jeffreys, and to Sir Joshua Reynolds.[1] The enamelist Henry Spicer trained Birch in the art of enamel painting.[2] Birch exhibited enamel portraits at the Royal Academy from 1781 to 1794. In 1785, he received a medal from the Royal Society of Arts.[3] As an engraver he is best known in England for his Délices de la Grande Bretagne, consisting of thirty-six plates of ancient buildings in Norwich and elsewhere, published in 1791.[4]

Library and Surgeon's Hall, building of the Library Company of Philadelphia, engraved in 1800.

After emigrating to Philadelphia in 1794[5] he made portrait enamels of many people including copies of portraits of George Washington, by Gilbert Stuart. The engraving series he made in 1800 of Philadelphia vistas was so extremely popular it resulted in three additional editions.[2] William Birch was the father of Thomas Birch, an American portrait and marine painter. Typescript copies of his autobiography are held by the Historical Society of Pennsylvania.[6] He died in Philadelphia, aged 79.



  1. ^ "The life and anecdotes of William Russell Birch, enamel painter". Smithsonian: Archives of American Art. Retrieved 24 August 2013.
  2. ^ a b Grant Wingate, Zenobia. "William Birch Biography". Caldwell Gallery. Retrieved 29 October 2020.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  3. ^ Radford, Ernest (1886). "Birch, William" . In Stephen, Leslie (ed.). Dictionary of National Biography. Vol. 5. London: Smith, Elder & Co.
  4. ^ Dictionary of Painters and Engravers, Biographical and Critical. Vol. I: A-K. 1886. p. 130.
  5. ^ Emily Tyson Cooperman (1999). "William Russell Birch (1755–1834) and the beginnings of the American picturesque". University of Pennsylvania. Retrieved 24 August 2013.
  6. ^ "HSP Manuscript Guide: 1500-1599". Historical Society of Pennsylvania. Retrieved 24 August 2013.
  7. ^ "Red Digital de Colecciones de Museos de España - Museos". ceres.mcu.es (in Spanish). Retrieved 21 December 2020.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)


  • Emily T. Cooperman & Lea Carson Sherk, William Birch: Picturing the American Scene (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2010).[1] The first biography of William Birch, it contains an edited version of his autobiography.

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