Niagara Falls: W.J. Bennett's "Stupendous Wonder of Nature"

The Anglo-American artist William James Bennett (ca. 1784-1844) painted four Niagara Falls views. Two became the subjects of his own aquatints, the other two were translated into aquatints by John Hill. The New York Mirror praised the series:

The public ... for a comparatively trifling sum ... may procure four admirable and splendid views of Niagara Falls ... from paintings by Bennett, and published by H.I. Megarey. We have seldom met among the numerous delineators of this stupendous wonder of nature, any conveying a more forcible impression. The sweep of the immense body of water over the precipitous ledges or rocks "” the volumes of foam floating away with the breeze, and every thing but the deafening thunder, are represented to the life. These prints would form valuable morceaux for travelers from Europe, desirous of carrying home with them correct sketches of American scenery.
In Bennett's idyllic view of the American fall taken from Goat Island, wild goats, which once inhabited the island and gave the place its name, graze in the foreground. The artist depicted the quick-moving rapids, the cascades of white water, the deep chasm, which dissolves into spray, the landscape, and the sky with various textures of aquatint. Only the goats were touched up with dots created by an engraving tool called a roulette and a few additional engraved lines. Bennett's views of Niagara Falls were his largest prints to date, and unlike his English illustrations, these prints were issued singly, not as part of a magazine, book, or portfolio. The power and grandeur of the falls were well suited to the new, large format, which contrasts with the generally smaller-scale British travel prints, intended not for framing, but for the reader's pleasure in a bound volume.


William James Bennett. Niagara Falls. / To Thomas Dixon Esqr. This View of the American Fall, Taken from Goat Island. Colored aquatint with roulette and engraving (second state), 1830. Published by Henry I.J. Megarey; printed by John Neale at Illman & Pilbrows.
The New York Public Library, The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs, Print Collection.


More Views by William James Bennett

Related Publication: William James Bennett: Master of the Aquatint View

Colletion Guide: Picturing America

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