Sold: A View of Col. Owens Furnace, George Beck

A View of Col. Owens Furnace

Artist: George Beck, 1748-1812

Gouache and watercolor on paper

17” x 23” image size (22 ¾” x 28 ¾” frame size)

Ref. No. 070320_153


This work was found with the previous entry (which has an attached label inscribed View of Lower Ferry on Kentucky River Geo. Beck 1812 affixed to the back). It bears a similar label reading A View of Col. Owens Furnace(Bourbon Furnace outside Owingsville, Kentucky in Bath County). The furnace label is unquestionably by the same hand (likely Mary Beck) as the lower ferry scene’s label, but with no date or artist’s name. The ferry and furnace paintings are by the same artist. The ferry painting was apparently exhibited by Beck’s wife Mary at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in 1814. This example seems a possible candidate for one of the six entries in Beck’s name from the previous year catalogued simply View in Kentucky, watercolor. Whatever the case, the furnace painting survives in a remarkable state of preservation in an associated period frame. An early, but somewhat-later frame found on this work will accompany any sale.

George Beck is credited as being one of three early landscape artists who first immigrated to America around 1800. Beck arrived in Norfolk, Virginia in 1795, and shortly thereafter, moved to Baltimore, Maryland where an important early work, View of Baltimore from Howard Park, can be viewed at the Maryland Historical Society. George Washington acquired two of Beck’s landscapes, which hung at Mt. Vernon. Although well received by a few, life was tough for a landscape artist in the era of portraiture. Beck moved several times in the next few years before settling at Lexington, Kentucky. In 1806 he resorted to teaching math with his wife Mary, also an artist, who instructed young ladies. However, he certainly did not abandon landscape art as evidenced by his display of ten identified-Kentucky landscapes, among 15 landscape entries, catalogued under his name at the annual Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts exhibitions between 1811 and 1814. 

This example, along with the previous listing, descended through the family of John Conover, a mid-19th century Michigan resident with an affinity for American landscape art. Conover also had a Robert Scott Duncanson (executed 40 years after the Beck paintings) View of Ashville, North Carolina in his estate. Works by Beck are in the Maryland Historical Society, Mount Vernon, Colonial Williamsburg, and the Missouri Historical Society.


“Property Of Rear Admiral Edward P. Moore And Barbara Bingham Moore.” Sotheby’s Auction Catalog September 26, 2008: Lots 35, 72, and 73.

Kentucky the Master Painters by Estill Curtis Pennington, Cane Ridge Publishing House, 2008, pp.13-14

Thomas, Deborah. “The Landscapes of George Beck.” The Magazine Antiques November 1992: pp. 746-753.

Whitley, Edna Talbott. “George Beck: An Eighteenth Century Painter.” Register, of the Kentucky Historical Society January, 1969: 20-36.

Whitley, Edna Talbott. Kentucky Antebellum Portraiture. Paris, Kentucky: National Society of Colonial Dames in America in the Commonwealth of Kentucky, 1956, p. 629.