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  • American Skippet
    American Skippet
  • General Josiah Harmar
    General Josiah Harmar
  • Appeal to the Great Spirit
    Appeal to the Great Spirit
  • Hong Punch Bowl
    Hong Punch Bowl
  • Barter for a Bride
    Barter for a Bride
  • Artist/MakerRichardt, Ferdinand  (1819-1895)
  • Date Madec. 1857-1860
  • Place MadeUSA
  • MaterialsOil on canvas
  • Measurements36" x 29 1/4"
  • Funds donated by F.M. Kirby Foundation, Inc.
  • Accession #1989.0014

View of Niagara Falls and Terrapin Tower from the American Side

Vertical views of Niagara Falls are rather uncommon before midcentury, although one of a pair of such views attributed to John Vanderlyn (ca. 1832; private collection) is similar in composition to this work by Ferdinand Richardt.[1]    Vanderlyn used the vertical format to enhance the drama by placing the viewer in the gorge, near the bottom of the cataract.[2]  
Richardt, in contrast, takes a high viewpoint, which distances us from the falls. This vantage is more artful and picturesque, and Richardt takes advantage of it to display his gifts as a colorist.
The luminosity of the painting is striking. Opalescent billows of spray rise from the brilliant green water. Much of the drama and beauty is found in the sweep of dark gray clouds, with light streaking their tops, and transient patches of light playing over the land and water. Some forty diminutive figures, often mere squiggles of paint, are scattered through the landscape. Their presence emphasizes the falls as a tourist attraction, a scenic wonder rather than a terrifying force.
This painting has not been identified among the dozens of views of Niagara painted by Richardt between 1855 and 1860 and exhibited together as the "Great Niagara Gallery," but it is nearly identical in design to a much larger painting, which has been dated ca. 1860 (private collection).[3]  The central formal difference is an arched top in the larger painting, which also dictates a more symmetrical disposition of the clouds.
William Kloss
1. The painting is signed at the lower right, "Ferd. Richardt" and is also inscribed on protective cardboard backing "Wax Relined/ By Kim Clark/ Rockport, Ma./1988."
2. Adamson, 43–45, figs. 33–34, cat. nos. 162–63. "Conceived as a complementary pair," they raise the possibility that this Richardt also has a mate.
3. Ibid., 151, cat. no. 144, illustrated in color as the frontispiece. It measures 56 1/8 by 35 3/8 in.