Niagara Falls, from the American Side

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Niagara Falls, from the American Side
Frederic Edwin Church - Niagara Falls, from the American Side - Google Art Project.jpg
ArtistFrederic Edwin Church
Mediumoil on canvas
Dimensions257 cm × 227 cm (101 in × 89 in)
LocationScottish National Gallery, Edinburgh, Scotland

Niagara Falls, from the American Side is a painting by the American artist Frederic Edwin Church (1826–1900). Completed in 1867, it is based on preliminary sketches made by the artist at Niagara Falls and on a sepia photograph. It is Church's largest painting.[1] The painting is now in the collection of the Scottish National Gallery.[2] Church was a leading member of the Hudson River School of painters.[3]


The painting depicts the view from the east side of Niagara Falls – the American side. In the spray of the waterfall a rainbow is visible. The painting has been described as giving the impression of the water being in constant motion, rushing down, roaring.[4][5]


Church made his first painting of the falls in 1857. He had visited the falls several times in July and late August the previous year, making a number of pencil and oil sketches from different points of view. He elected to paint the scene from the Canadian side, choosing unconventional dimensions for the painting that emphasized the panoramic effect.[6]

This first painting was an immediate success, attracting over 100,000 visitors within the first fortnight of its premiere at a New York gallery. Following this, it was exhibited at major cities on the Eastern seaboard, toured Britain twice and was selected for the 1867 Exposition Universelle in Paris. It was purchased by the recently founded Corcoran Gallery of Art in 1876, cementing that institution's success. When the Corcoran closed in 2014, its collection was gifted to the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.[6]

Niagara Falls, from the American Side was commissioned from Church by the American art dealer Michael Knoedler in 1866. It was the third painting of the series and may have been originally destined for the Exposition. Like many of Church's works of the 1850s and 1860s, it was exhibited in New York City, and then sent to London, where a chromolithograph was made. In 1887 the painting was purchased by John S. Kennedy, who gifted it to his homeland of Scotland.[2] Niagara Falls, from the American Side is the only major work by Frederic Edwin Church which is in a public collection in Europe.[2][7]


One of the studies of the Niagara falls

The canvas is painted in the Romantic style and captures the aesthetic principles of the sublime and the picturesque.[8] Church was a member of the Hudson River School, a group of landscape artists, whose aesthetic vision was influenced by romanticism. The Romantic movement validated intense emotions. The movement was placing new emphasis on the sentiments of visionary and transcendental experience. Emotions like awe – especially that which is experienced in confronting the sublimity of untamed nature and its picturesque qualities – were now entirely new aesthetic categories, and very different from art styles of the same era – the unemotional Realism[9] and of the calm, balanced Classicism[10] – as a source of aesthetic experience.[11][12]

The Sublime view of nature was as something of a large scale dramatic subject, an expression of the sublime – defined by Edmund Burke as the strongest emotion that can be felt.[13][14][15]


  1. ^ Harvey, Eleanor Jones; Church, Frederic Edwin (2002). The Voyage of the Icebergs: Frederic Church's Arctic Masterpiece. Dallas Museum of Art. p. 22. ISBN 9780300095364.
  2. ^ a b c "Niagara Falls, from the American side". National Galleries Scotland. Retrieved 8 October 2014.
  3. ^ Craven, Wayne (2003). American art: history and culture (1st ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill. pp. 207–209. ISBN 0071415246.
  4. ^ [Linda Lee Revie The Niagara Companion: Explorers, Artists and Writers at the Falls. — Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 2003. — 212 с. — ISBN 978-0-889-20433-1]
  5. ^ "Great Works: Niagara Falls, from the American Side, 1867 (260cm x 231cm), Frederic Edwin Church". The Independent. Retrieved 11 November 2014.
  6. ^ a b "Niagara". National Gallery of Art. Retrieved November 26, 2015.
  7. ^ "Neither land nor water:Martin Jonson Heade, Frederic Edwin Church and American landscape painting in the nineteenth century" (PDF). WRLC. pp. 23–26, 36–38, 40. Retrieved 8 October 2014.
  8. ^ "The University of Chicago: beautiful, sublime". Retrieved 11 November 2014.
  9. ^ "Metropolitan Museum of Art". Retrieved 1 November 2014.
  10. ^ [Neoclassicism]
  11. ^ "American Sublime". Retrieved 11 November 2014.
  12. ^ "Romanticism". Retrieved 11 November 2014.
  13. ^ "American Sublime: Landscape Painting in the United States 1820–1880 (exhibition in 2002)". Tate Press Office. Retrieved 8 October 2014.
  14. ^ "Encyclopædia Britannica article on Romanticism". Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc. Retrieved 8 October 2014.
  15. ^ Burke, Edmund. "On the Sublime and Beautiful". Bartleby. Retrieved 8 October 2014.

Further reading[edit]

  • Johnstone, Christopher, "Niagara Falls from the American Side 1867", National Galleries of Scotland, 1980

External links[edit]