John Vanderlyn, Niagara and the Rapids, ca. 1801-1802, oil on paper mounted on board, 14 1/2 x 46 1/2 in. Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, Arkansas, 2006.54. Photography by Dwight Primiano.
Where did the artist position our vantage point as a viewer? How does it shape the way you look at and understand the painting?
Despite the intimate scale of this painting, the long, narrow, panoramic format and bird’s eye viewpoint emphasize the magnitude of the horseshoe-shaped falls and grandeur of the surrounding landscape. By the early nineteenth century, Niagara became a symbol of the young nation’s strength, splendor, and natural abundance.
John Vanderlyn began his career in the studio of Gilbert Stuart. Under the patronage of the New York Senator, and later Vice President, Aaron Burr, he became the first American painter to study in Paris, rather than in London.
American's landscape shapes and is shaped by national identity. Based on what you can see in this painting, what can you assume about the artist's (and/or larger society's) attitudes toward nature?
How did the founders envision America and how has that vision changed over time?
Exhibition sponsored by Kenneth C. Griffin
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