Bird's Eye View of Niagara Falls, 1827
17 5/8 x 15 1/2 in.
Private collection, courtesy of Hirschl & Adler Galleries, New York
Catlin's scenes of these spectacular falls, designed to capture their impressive size and overwhelming presence, were a welcome diversion from painting society portraits in New York City. The viewpoint high above the crashing water gives this aerial image an eerie quietness and calm. During his later trips to the West, Catlin's imagination would return him to this lofty perspective. In his Letters and Notes he describes a wider scene:
"I was lifted up upon an imaginary pair of wings, which easily raised and held me floating in the open air, from whence I could behold beneath me the Pacific and the Atlantic Oceansthe great cities of the East, and the mighty rivers. I could see the blue chain of the great lakes at the Norththe Rocky Mountains, and beneath them and near their base, the vast, and almost boundless plains of grass, which were speckled with the bands of grazing buffaloes!"