Charles De Wolf Brownell
Brownell was a Hartford, Connecticut resident and, after deciding that his initial profession of law was too corrupt, he began painting and traveling, from Cuba in the 1850s to the Caribbean, South America, Europe and during his later years in the Mid- and Far East. An avid sailor, he painted the New England coast. This tiny oil sketch is dated 1865 and depicts the autumn and pumpkins in Old Lyme. Brownell had a remarkable habit of keeping visual diaries—rather than written diaries—and is known to have produced large numbers of these diaries, filled with 3" x 5" fully painted and remarkably detailed images of his vast travels. The paintings were slipped into paper mounts, somewhat like early photo albums, and often were carefully inscribed on the back. A major diary or album of his, containing perhaps 75 or more exquisite gems like this, surfaced on the market around 1999 and was in the hands of a number of dealers (so I have been told) who sought to sell the diary intact for a six-figure sum. Eventually a private dealer obtained it and concluded that he had to break it up and sell individual images. A very good friend of mine was starting a 19th century collection, and I was able to obtain about thirty for him—keeping only one for myself. And if you are wondering: yes, I have questioned that decision from time to time.