Tuesday, August 11, 2015

William Berczy

Portrait of Thayendanegea (Joseph Brant)
c. 1805
oil on canvas
61.8 × 46.1 cm    
National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

William Berczy (1744-1813) was a German-born Upper Canada pioneer and painter. He was born in Swabia, Electorate of Bavaria (part of the Holy Roman Empire and now in Germany). He studied at the University of Jena in Saxony.

His early career was spent in several European countries, including Italy and England, where he exhibited at the Royal Academy. In 1792, he set sailed for the Americas settling in Philadelphia, then setting up a business in York, Upper Canada (now Toronto). A couple years later, his work took him to Lower Canada (Quebec). Although best known for his portraits, he also carried out religious paintings and architectural work. His two best known pictures are a full-length portrait of the Mohawk chief Thayendanegea (Joseph Brant) and a group portrait of the Woolsey Family.

He travelled to New York City during the War of 1812 and was stranded when attempting to travel to England. He died in the city and was buried at Trinity Church. His son Charles Albert Berczy became the first Post Master of Toronto.