Could these two paintings really be of Brooklyn’s Gowanus Bay — namesake of the canal that was once a notoriously polluted mob dumping ground snaking through Red Hook and Carroll Gardens?
Hard to believe, but the waterfront — and the creek that became the canal — was once this bucolic and beautiful. The first painting, “Sunset at Gowanus Bay,” dates to 1851. It’s by an Australian painter named Henry Gritten, who lived in Brooklyn in the 1850s.
At the time Gritten painted this, Gowanus Creek was being widened and deepened, according to nyc.gov. The new Gowanus Canal, as it would be named, was supposed to attract industry and compete with New York.
In 1887, long after the canal had been built out, William Merritt Chase did his own take on Gowanus Bay.
I wish I knew where his vantage point was when he painted this beachy scene with a pier, small boats, gentle waves, and not much industry along the waterfront. The Bay looks absolutely swim-able.