Charles DeWolf Brownell was born in Providence in 1822 to parents from old-line Rhode Island families. When Brownell was two-years-old, the family moved to East Hartford where Charles was raised and grew to manhood. In 1843, he became an attorney and lived in a house directly opposite Connecticut’s famed Charter Oak. He later rendered a well-known painting of that historical
After a decade of practice, Brownell abandoned his career as a lawyer, having become enamored of landscape painting as a result of his sketching trips through the Connecticut River Valley with artist Henry Bryant.
In 1865 Charles married Henrietta Knowlton Angell Pierce of Bristol, Rhode Island prompting him to take up permanent residence on Walley Street in that bayside town. From his Bristol base, Charles and his family (a wife and four sons) traveled extensively in Europe during the 1870s. Here he painted some of his finest works. Later Brownell’s solo expeditions took him to the Hudson River Valley, the Caribbean, Mexico, Cuba, South America, and the American Southwest. He captured the beauty of all these areas in his paintings. In June 1909, twelve years after the death of his wife, the wandering Brownell (who had taken a round-the-world cruise in 1897-98) finally came to rest and was buried in Bristol’s Juniper Hill Cemetery.
Many of Brownell’s best known paintings--Pinkham Notch, White Mountains, The Charter Oak, and The Burning of the Gaspee reflect the spirit and talent of a Rhode Island renaissance man who compiled an impressive collection of artistic works during his fifty-year career.
– (Dr.) Patrick T. Conley