Regis Gignoux, Niagara Falls in Winter 1848, 52"X 36"
Accepted by the Joint Committee on the Library, 1901
Senate wing, third floor, south corridor
Gignoux's painting of Niagara is a fine example of the sublime portrayal
of the American landscape. The contrast between the scale of the figures in the painting to both
the bird and the Falls diminishes the importance of the men and focuses on the
grandeur of the setting. The wonders of the American wilderness take
center stage as the focus shifts to nature in its purest state. The placement of the white explorers in this
natural scene, however, still adheres to the convention of painting
Europeans as the discoverers of the natural wonders of the American continent, but
these men do not arrive on the scene as an organized expedition party bearing the
gospel of civilization, as the men in Bierstadt's paintings did. Instead, these men
appear to be common men, perhaps pioneers or newly settled inhabitants. Although the message of the painting
constructs a myth of "discovery" for the early white settlers, the dominating presence
of the setting signals a change in American painting.
Return to text