In 1840, Thomas Prichard Rossiter traveled throughout Europe with John Frederick Kensett and other artists associated with the Hudson River School. The trip significantly influenced him. In fact, he was so taken with Italy, where he met the founder of the Hudson River School, Thomas Cole, that he stayed on in Rome for several years. Although Rossiter is predominantly known as a portraitist, his early experiences and associations no doubt influenced this painting. It is one of two works the artist made of differing Niagara Falls vistas. Rossiter kept scrapbooks of reference materials and was often inspired by imagery he encountered in postcards and photographs. It is likely that Rossiter was aware of Cole’s 1830 Distant View of Niagara Falls, and the two paintings share several compositional elements, such as a removed vantage point and an idealized landscape unmarked by industry or tourism, which would have been on the rise in the mid-nineteenth century. Both paintings also contain a Native American figure in the foreground, who not only indicates the immense scale of the Falls but symbolically mourns the rapidly vanishing American wilderness, furthering the visual narrative of this romanticized view of nature.
Label from Picturing Niagara, September 30, 2017–August 5, 2018