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Portrait of George Law


William Henry Powell (1823-1879) is best known for his historical portrait  paintings. In this particular portrait, he portrays the wealth  and achievements of his sitter, George Law (1806 - 1881), who is seen striding  down the steps of his Fifth Avenue residence.

George Law was a man of many passions. Law grew up in Jackson  (now Shushan) New York. As a son of a farmer, he decided to  pursue a career in construction. He worked on the Dismal Swamp,  Morris, Harlem and Delaware/Hudson canals. In 1839, he undertook  the engineering and construction of the High Bridge, which is represented in the far right of the painting.

Later, Law became interested in railroads and the steam ship industry. He acquired the Brooklyn and Staten Island Ferries and  the Staten Island Railroad. The railroad and ferry are both represented in the middle ground of the painting.

The area known as Saint George is named after George Law. The  developer, Erastus Wiman, "obtained an option on waterfront  property" owned by Law. After two unsuccessful attempts at  developing the hub, Law refused Wiman's request for another option. Wiman's response, "George, if you let me have the option, I will canonize you." Law did not understand the statement, so Wiman explained further, "I will name the place Saint George."

Artist: William Henry Powell (1823 - 1879)

Title: Portrait of George Law

Medium: Oil on canvas

Dates: 1856

Dimensions: 108" H x 72" W

Signature/Inscription: Wm Powell 1856; Front - Lower left

Culture: American

Accession Number: A2005.1.1

Credit: Museum Purchase, 2005

Tags: 19th century, american, bridge, george law, high bridge, law, oil, painting, portrait, powell, railroad, st. george, staten island ferry, staten island railroad, william henry powell