The year was 1760 when Francis Guy was born in Lorton, near Keswick, England. He grew up and was involved in his family’s silk dyer business .
Destiny had other plans.
The family moved to the United States in 1795, where Francis had every intention of continuing in the silk dyer profession. He lived for a short time in New York before moving to Baltimore around 1798. Life was unfolding in a predictable way until fire demolished his business in 1799.
There are moments that define our lives and set us on an alternative course. For Francis, 1799 was pivotal. His business destroyed, he decided on a dramatic career change from being a silk dyer to a painter. I believe this was a leap of faith, given he had no formal art education. Ever resourceful, he was able to learn by himself with the help of Robert Gilmor, one of Baltimore’s early art collectors.
Francis is known for portraying Baltimore’s daily life and everyday interactions. He continued this type of painting when he moved to Brooklyn in 1817.
Francis painted two scenes of downtown Brooklyn. These winter paintings are brilliant views of an early 19th-century Brooklyn captured from his studio window on Front street. The detail is stunning. It seems as if a viewer could step back in time simply by entering the painting.
While he lived in Brooklyn, Francis organized an ambitious exhibition for his work. Unfortunately, he died in 1820 before the exhibition closed.
Today, Francis is acknowledged as one of America’s earliest and most important landscape artist.