Niagara Falls

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Thomas Cole
1829 – 1830

This view of Niagara by Hudson River School founder Cole addresses the role of art in bringing popular attention to America's wilderness. Niagara was already a commercialized tourist destination when Cole idealized its unspoiled wildness in this painting.

Frederick and Julia Billings purchased this painting and 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 wrote to acknowledge Julia Billings' letter, "relative to the three Coles," with details of their delivery and care.

Oil on wood panel. L 46, W 60 cm
Marsh - Billings - Rockefeller National Historical Park, MABI 1770