Sarah Cash, Lecture on Frederick Church's Niagara "Only the Roar Left Out"

Sarah Cash - Associate Curator of American and British Paintings at the National Gallery of Art

“Only The Roar Left Out” - Frederic Church and Niagara Falls

She is working on 2026 exhibit of Church and Niagara Falls and presently working on a retrospective of artist John Singer Sargent and his 6 trips to Spain to open in 2022. She is hoping Nancy Heller will write a chapter in the Singer book that will accompany the exhibition.

Niagrara - Painted by Church in 1857

In 1944 became a pupil of Thomas Cole - studied for 2 Years

Cole wrote that Church had the finest eye for detail that he had ever known

Alexander Von Humbold - spent 6 weeks in the US

Church traveled to South America -

Artists have been painting Niagara Falls forever. This is the journey of Church and the evolution of his masterpiece Niagara.

The Beginning 1956 -

Church painted with out any terra firma - “ Only the roar left out”. We see it and we can practically hear it. This photograph of the falls shows how Church has tilted the falls to give the idea of going over the precipice. Church’s home Olana is in Hudson NY. He designed and built this home in 1872. Re-designed the landscape to make a view. It is now Olana State Historic Park.

When he painted Niagara Falls it was not a tourist attraction. When it became one he became very concerned about preserving the nature of it. He was not happy with it’s attention and all the commercialism attached to the attraction. But he did capitalize on it.

Started out in March of 1856 sketching and painting the Falls for the first time.,

One of his first sketches in 1856. He often did not date his works, this one he did.

This is a winter view. Many of these works are in his home Olana or in the Cooper-Hewitt. All of his estate were given to the Cooper Hewitt. His original sketches were all tacked on the wall for students to study. Now many of the sketches are faded, with light damage and tack holes.

Another winter view. - Goat Island

Church painted from Daguerrotype (early photographs) - particularly photographs for Platt Babbit - the big question is did they collaborate. Babbit had a studio in Niagara Falls

The Making and Marketing of the “The Great Fall: Niagara” 1957

This is the title the painting was first exhibited as.

Sketch and painting..Painted it horizontal. But then edited down for his final work. Shown below in it’s original frame.

This painting was reproduced as a lithograph for purchase at the falls - The exhibition ticket cost 25 cents.

THis exhibit was shown as a one picture exhbit - 17 exhibits in 17 cities.. it was the first time a piece of art was marketed like this.

He made $16,400 with the sale of these lithographs. Millardd Fillmore was the first purchaser.

1876 Corcoran acquired Niagara.

“Under Niagara”- 1862 - The missing painting

Under Niagara painted in 1858. This was the Study

Finished in a single day. It is a MISSING Painting.

The painting was purchased by wealthy New Yorker Marshall O Roberts in 1863. And was housed in his 5th Avenue home with a gallery behind it.

When Roberts he died in 1880 - his estate sold “Washington Crossing the Delaware” to the Met and much of his art was cataloged and sold. This painting was not listed in any sales documents. Perhaps it was moved with his widow to London -Her moving inventory lists 30 paintings But “Under Niagara” was not listed in those pieces of work.

The search still continued.

When their son and only heir died.. there was a ad discovered of the “sale of the contents of the London mansion”. We have found Under Niagara - and see the work was sold. Painting is still at large. Hoping the picture will be found somewhere... Is it in a country estate, burned by the Nazi’s, or someone’s attic. A mystery to be solved.

Niagara Falls from the American Side - 1867

Church’s third major work on the falls

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© 2016 by Loretta Lavallee.