During the early nineteenth century, one of the most popular sets of prints sold to tourists at Niagara Falls was a group of four aquatint engravings based on watercolor paintings by William James Bennett. The first two prints, published in 1829, are conventional compositions that depict the grand cascade of the Falls from below. The second two, published in 1831, show it from more unusual vantage points on Goat Island. One of these later versions, entitled Niagara Falls: View of the British Falls Taken from Goat Island, must have been especially appealing to the unknown artist who painted this work. This version faithfully reproduces nearly all of the elements in Bennet’s composition, including the placement of the trees in the foreground, the configuration of the Falls, the rocks in the water, the bridge, and even the little trees in the background silhouetted against the sky. The transformation of a painting into a print into yet another painting was not uncommon in early American art, and many amateur artists learned their craft by copying easily obtainable images.
Label from Picturing Niagara, September 30, 2017–August 5, 2018