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George Inness
Niagara
1889
oil
30 x 45 in.
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of William T. Evans



Inness painted America's most celebrated natural wonder at a critical moment in its history. By the early 1880s this stupendous cataract was densely surrounded by mills and factories, obscuring and despoiling its beauty. Protective legislation in 1885 had begun to roll back the ravages of industry. A single smoke stack still appears on the horizon in this image. Inness, one of America's most devoted landscapists, ignores the thunderous pounding of water and instead, favoring a spiritual mood, evokes the timeless mystery of Niagara through veils of mist.