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Inspired Landscapes

May 15 – October 15, 2008

Mr. Wagstaffe

George D’Almaine
Mr. Wagstaffe
1834 - 1836
Watercolour on paper

Philip John Bainbrigge

Attributed to Philip John Bainbrigge
English (1817-1881)
View from Queenston Heights
Watercolour on paper


Attributed to John Herbert Caddy
Anglo-Canadian (1801-1883)
View of Fort Niagara
Watercolour on paper


The Niagara River has inspired visitors and artists for centuries.
Follow the River, from the Falls to Lake Ontario, through the eyes of an artist.

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The Power of Nature
Artists have attempted to capture the beauty, inspiration and wonder of the Falls. 
Each artist represented the landmark in different ways.  Many tried differing vantages to portray the enormity of this natural wonder. 
Some artists found points of interest below the Falls from which to paint. 
Others found the Gorge, River and Lake Ontario a showcase of nature.
As one views the paintings of the Falls, buildings, bridges, factories and hotels are often downplayed or invisible. 
Apart from people that provide contrast, many found that the Falls required and commanded the viewers’ full attention.

Man versus Nature
Many artists found different subject matter as they moved   downstream from the Falls.  Niagara Falls, much like today, was a bustling community.  Many downplay this development and   focus the viewer on the natural elements of the Falls.
As one proceeds down the River, it becomes evident that the artists start to focus less on nature and more on the human history of the area.  From the Heights of Queenston, buildings are seen in the background more frequently.
As the River enters Lake Ontario, artists focus our attention on the imposing fortifications and humble dwellings of this historic community.

Artists Living in Niagara
Niagara-on-the-Lake attracted artists for various reasons. 
In the 19th century, artists such as Francis Hincks Granger moved to Niagara.  He found work as a painter in town at the railcar factory.
Niagara-on-the-Lake attracted tourists wishing to find a place to relax, fish, golf and swim in the late 1800s and early 1900s. E. Wiley Grier of Toronto, one of Canada’s best portrait artists of the early 20th century, also found Niagara an ideal retreat.
The prosperity from tourism in Niagara-on-the-Lake declined by 1930.  However, from this time until the 1970s, Niagara continued to attract artists of all kinds as a result of the beauty of the landscape and the built heritage.  

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Francis Hincks Granger

Francis Hincks Granger
Canadian (1829-1906)
A view of Fort Niagara and the mouth of the Niagara River
Watercolour on paper

The Pilgrimage
By the mid 1800s, the expansion of steamships and trains offering reliable transportation provided the opportunity for artists from around the world to visit Niagara Falls. They created art away from European influence.
Some artists struggled with conveying the expanse, height or power of the Falls.  Nature had already created a wonderful picture.
Many others felt deep disappointment upon their arrival. Artists of all types found that the Falls were not quite what they were  expecting.  To them, the scene was unable to live up to the mythology surrounding them.  
Others captured the power and beauty.  These artists contributed to the iconic status of the Falls.

Art and Tourism
The same trains and steamships that provided access to the Falls for artists also transformed the audiences for the art of the Falls. 
Artists created works for mass audiences who also wanted to witness the splendour of the Falls first hand. 
Travel journals and diaries from the Victorian era provide visitors with a sense of Niagara and created the marketing allure of the Falls that continues today.
These depictions of Niagara Falls started appearing on glassware, wallpaper, books and in illustrated newspapers. 
Such paintings had an impact on how others saw the community and how the community saw itself.
Visitors to Niagara expected to see the Falls and take in the different sites of Niagara-on-the-Lake.

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The River
The Falls was an important location but a major obstacle for both Native traders and Europeans wishing to explore into the interior of North America.  The Great Lakes provided access far into the interior of the continent but first, all cargo needed to go around the imposing Falls.
The 58 km (36 mi) long Niagara River connects two Great Lakes, Erie and Ontario.  The difference in elevation between the two lakes is 99 m (326 ft) and the Falls itself is 57 m (187 ft) high.
The Niagara Gorge extends from the Falls for 11 km (7 mi) downstream to the base of the escarpment at Queenston.
12,500 years ago, the Falls were located in what is now known as Queenston.  The  force of water has eroded the bedrock to its  current location and continues to move south towards Lake Erie.

Inspired Landscapes was generously sponsored by Geoffrey and Lorraine Joyner, who also contributed several works from their own private collection for this special exhibit.  The exhibition was displayed from May 15 to October 6, 2008.


® Image: View of Fort George, Oil on canvass, C. Kreighoff 1823