CHURCH, Frederic Edwin
(b. 1826, Hartford, d. 1900, New York)

Niagara Falls

Oil n canvas, 108 x 230 cm
National Gallery of Art, Washington

Frederic Edwin Church was the most significant successor of Thomas Cole, founder of the Hudson River School. Church's landscapes represented unsullied nature as an embodiment of his faith in the God-given strength and mission of the New World, "America's sacred destiny," as he put it. An example is Niagara Falls, an icon of American painting. The extremely wide format, the horseshoe shape of the falling masses of water, and the horizontal stretch of land in the background, visualizing the incredible extent of this natural wonder, lend the picture the monumentality of a gigantic panorama. The falls and the immense, untouched landscape become a natural symbol of the political energy of a people and nation devoted to making the world a better place to live in. The violet hue of the sky and the rainbow blur in the rising mists, conveying a sense of mystery that lends the natural motif a symbolic aspect.

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