Fourth of July in Centre Square

John L. Krimmel

Likely the earliest American artist to specialize in genre scenes, or depictions of everyday life, John Lewis Krimmel has sometimes been referred to as the 'American Hogarth' for his humorous and lightly satirical paintings. The German-born Krimmel emigrated to Philadelphia in 1810. While supporting himself as a portraitist and drawing instructor, he began to paint images of Philadelphia life. A popular artist, Krimmel was actively involved with the Pennsylvania Academy until his untimely drowning while swimming in the Schuylkill River. "Fourth of July in Centre Square" surveys a broad range of the city's population, including fashionable ladies and gentlemen, plainly dressed Quakers, and African-American citizens. With its variety of narrative incident, this summertime scene of the park at Centre Square (now the site of City Hall) captures much of what was 'new' in the city. To the left, the Philadelphia Water Works, housed in a classically inspired structure by Benjamin Latrobe, was considered an engineering marvel and a godsend in a city long ravaged by yellow fever (then thought to be water-borne). The clean water provided by its steam-driven pumping station also made possible America's first public fountain, the centerpiece of which was "Water Nymph and Bittern," a wooden sculpture by William Rush, intended as an allegory of the Schuylkill.
Date of Birth
by 1812
Oil on canvas
22 3/4 x 29 in. (57.785 x 73.66 cm.)
Accession #
Credit Line
Pennsylvania Academy purchase (from the estate of Paul Beck, Jr.)