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In early 1767 Boston began a boycott of British goods in protest against the Townshend Acts, a series of restrictive laws which included new taxes on paint, lead, tea, and paper. The town also sent out a circular letter to the other colonies protesting the new laws and calling for an inter-colonial conference on the matter. Following Boston's role in forcing the end of the Stamp Tax in 1763 and the more recent Liberty incident any unrest in Massachusetts was seen as a threat to increasingly stringent British rule. As a show of force, the prime minister brought two regiments into Boston from Halifax in October 1768.
British warships lie at anchor off Long Wharf while their troops disembark in this carefully detailed bird's eye view of Boston harbor. The work both documents and protests against the newest act of tyranny by King George against the American colonies. Putti in military garb support the waving central banner citing the Magna Charta, the document symbolizing individual rights and the accountability of the king to the law for all English subjects.
In the upper-left corner the artist provides a legend naming the ships and points of reference in the landscape:
The inscription in the upper-right corner contains the title of the work, the date of the landing, and the artist's signature: A / Perspective View of the / Blockad of Boston Harbour, / Islands & ca. men of war and /the landing the 29th and 14th / Rigiments on the first of Oct / ober 68, as taken from the end of / long wharff by: / Christian Remich.
The inscriptions are ornamented with figures of Native Americans, putti, a draped female figure symbolizing "charitas," and flags, weapons, and other eighteenth-century military devices. Self-taught, the artist relied on design and color in his work. Though derived from English and European models, the figures and objects are flat and one-dimensional.
Remick produced six known versions of this work, several dedicated to specific people. Though it bears no dedication, the provenance of this watercolor has been recorded by its previous owners and it is thus known that it was first owned by the royal governor in 1768, Thomas Hutchinson. The Massachusetts Historical Society owns a second, smaller version of this, and the Essex Institute also owns two versions. Another, dedicated to John Hancock, is owned by the Club of Odd Volumes, and one belongs to the New England Historic Genealogical Society.
Of the fourth generation of Remicks in this country, Christian Remick was born in Eastham on Cape Cod in 1726, oldest boy and fourth child in a family of nine.1 By profession a sailor and master mariner, during the American Revolution he served on Massachusetts vessels. When not at sea he advertised for work as an artist. The following appeared in the Boston-Gazette and Country Journal of 16 October 1769:
Christian Remich, lately from Spain, Begs Leave to inform the Public, That he performs all sorts of Drawing in Water Colours, such as Sea Pieces, Perspective Views, Geographical Plans of Harbours, Sea Coasts &ct. Also, Colours Pictures to the Life, and Draws Coats of Arms, at the most reasonable Rates. Specimens of his Performances, particularly an Accurate View of the Blockade of Boston, with the landing of the British Troops on the first of October 1768, may be seen at the Golden Ball and Bunch of Grapes Taverns, or at Mr. Thomas Bradford's, North-End, Boston.
Little, aside from the six views of the blockade, remains of Remick's work. It is known that he colored at least one engraving of the Boston Massacre for Paul Revere (Museum of Fine Arts, Boston).2 When not at sea much of Remick's life was passed in Boston, though Harwich and Eastham claimed part of his time.3 Christian Remick was admitted to the Boston almshouse on 24 February 1773, with his wife and two children. Only forty-seven years old, the artist died there two weeks later on March 10.4
1. The New England Historical and Genealogical Register. 47. Boston, 1893, p.475.
2. Clarence S. Brigham. Paul Revere’s Engravings. Worcester, Mass., 1954, p.48.
3. Henry W. Cunningham. Christian Remick. Boston, 1904, pp.12-13.
4. Records of the Boston Overseers of the Poor, Massachusetts Historical Society.