By Thomas Cole
This view of Niagara exemplifies the story of art and conservation as told to visitors at Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park. It introduces the Hudson River School and the work of Cole, the school’s founder. It provides a rich opportunity to discuss great natural landmarks, and the role of art in bringing popular attention to America’s wilderness. Niagara was already a thoroughly commercialized tourist destination when Cole idealized its unspoiled wildness in this painting, attributed to about 1829-30.
Frederick and Julia Billings purchased this painting of Niagara, along with two small Arcadian studies by Cole, on the recommendation of the artist Frederic Church, who was acting as broker for Cole’s estate. In 1879 Church wrote to Frederick Billings, "I have selected three or four of the most attractive of the little pictures by Thomas Cole which the family will part with to be sent to my studio in New York for your inspection." Two months later he writes again to acknowledge Julia Billings’ letter, “relative to the three Coles," with details of their delivery and care.
Oil, canvas. 48x62 cm
Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park, MABI 1770