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Frederic Edwin Church American

On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 730

The nineteenth century was the great age of the plein-air oil sketch and American artist Frederic Church was among the most accomplished and prolific exponents of the medium. Having been introduced to the on-sight oil sketch by his teacher Thomas Cole, he would practice it throughout his lifetime, commenting to Cole, "of all employments, I think it most delightful." Church’s close observations of nature, seen in Niagara, represent a challenge to earlier models of landscape art that insisted on symbolic unity, and instead offers a discourse with current scientific knowledge.

Church painted this exquisite on-site oil study of the Horseshoe Falls section of Niagara Falls, from the Canadian side, most likely during his trip in August, 1858. In his sweeping panorama, the artist, and by extension the viewer, is positioned in the water, looking up at Horseshoe Falls and the Terrapin Tower, built in 1833 on the brink of the falls. The rock formations, engulfed in mist, are striking, as is the flow of water cascading over the edge of the falls. Church uses a palette of light blue, sea foam green, white, and brown with swiftly executed masterful brushstrokes. Niagara is a highly finished study, executed with great control and detail, including smaller elements such as the wood bridge that leads to the Terrapin Tower. The work reveals the artist’s continued fascination with the panoramic possibilities of the falls and his ongoing search for novel ways to depict the iconic national landmark.

Niagara, Frederic Edwin Church (American, Hartford, Connecticut 1826–1900 New York), Oil on paper laid down on canvas, American

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