This print is considered by scholars to be among the important American views of the Federal period. It is listed in American Engravers Upon Copper and Steel, and described by Gloria Gilda Deák as follows:
“William Bennett’s depiction of Niagara Falls from under the towering Table Rock is even more dramatic than his companion view from Prospect Point [Item 363]. The splendor of the primeval wilderness that most Europeans associated with the virgin land of America is here forcibly communicated at a range close enough to inspire awe in the viewer. Though figures are included in the scene to project a sense of scale, the pronounced focus is on the ever-changing, nonfigural drama of nature’s primal elements: water, air, sky, clouds, and rocks. Each is presented with an overwhelming power of its own, unified in a radiant composition that underscores the mysterious harmony of the natural world.
Bennett’s original rendering for the aquatint was in the medium of watercolor. He exhibited it at the National Academy of Design in 1829 (the year that marked his full membership in the academy) along with three other of his creations: a view of New York and two landscapes near the Bay of Naples . The Italian views, made abroad while Bennett was still a resident of his native England, came to America with the artist in 1826. Bennett’s application to exhibit the Niagara view is accompanied by the notation that is “One of a series of Views of the Falls, Publishing by H. I. Megarey, Esq.” Bennett made a double set of views of Niagara, which were rendered in aquatint. The dates for the first set were established by Richard J. Koke, whose Checklist provides interesting details regarding the execution of the two aquatints. The aquatints for the second set were issued in 1830. All were published under the imprint of Henry Megarey.”
William James Bennett was born in England and was a member of the Associated Artists in Water-Colours in 1808, exhibiting at the British Water-Colour Society and other London galleries until 1825. He emigrated to New York by 1826 as a painter of watercolor landscapes and an aquatint engraver. Elected a full member of the American National Academy of Design in the late 1820s, he also served for many years as its curator.
John Hill began his career as an aquatint engraver of landscapes in his native London, publishing a series of views after the paintings of J.M.W. Turner and others. He emigrated to the U.S. in 1816 and continued engraving for the next 20 years, first in Philadelphia and later in New York . He is best known for The Landscape Album, a series of large aquatints of American landscapes, after the paintings by Joshua Shaw, and Hudson River Portfolio after paintings by W.G. Wall. His son and grandson, John William Hill and John Henry Hill, were also noted landscape painters.
Condition: Generally very good with overall light toning and wear. Very faint toning marks from former matting. Left margin with what apparently is binders stitch holes from a former binding, thought the print was separately issued. Left and right sides of plate mark apparently trimmed when bound. Short marginal tear in left margin.
Deák, Gloria Gilda. Picturing America. Princeton University Press, Princeton, N. J.: 1988, Item 364, page 246.
Fielding, Mantle. Dictionary of American Painters, Sculptors and Engravers. Green Farms, Connecticut: Modern Books and Crafts, 1926, rev. ed. 1974. (re: Bennett, p. 26; Hill, p. 169).