James Renwick, Jr., architect of the Smallpox Hospital, was born into a family of artists and engineers. His father and two brothers worked both in education and engineering and his cousin, James Renwick Brevoort (1832-1918) was a highly talented landscape painter who worked in a similar style of contemporaries like Albert Bierstadt, Frederic Edwin Church, and Thomas Moran. Brevoort was trained in New York City and is considered a Hudson River School painter, a type of landscape painting known for its highly scenic and dramatic, light-filled renderings along the banks of Hudson River in New York State.
Before becoming a painter, however, James Renwick Brevoort studied architecture and trained as an assistant to his cousin, James Renwick, Jr. Brevoort went on to receive a certificate in architecture from New York University in 1854. However, by the late 1850s, he was drawn to painting. He left his cousin’s firm, and the profession of architecture altogether, and began to study at the Academy of Design (located then in Manhattan on 13th Street) under renowned painter Thomas S. Cummings. Brevoort excelled and was eventually elected an academician of the National Academy.
Brevoort painted for nearly fifty years in both New York and Europe. Though he never reached the acclaim and renown of his cousin, it is clear his studies as an architect were of great influence on his work. His obituary in the New York Times stated that he treasured most a sketch he made as boy of the now landmarked Lorillard Snuff Mill located at the New York Botanical Garden. Brevoort’s painting are in the permanent collections of the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and at the Hudson River Museum in upstate New York.