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Fig. 1: Niagara Falls, circa 1894. Oil on canvas, 30 x 25 1/8 inches. Courtesy of Smithsonian American Art Museum; gift of John Gellatly.
JOHN H. TWACHTMAN (American, 1853–1902)

John Henry Twachtman has long been considered one of America’s leading Impressionists. In the early 1890s, following a successful career spent in Paris, Giverny, and New York City, he settled in Greenwich, Connecticut, content to paint and meditate on the landscape around him. However, in 1893 Twachtman traveled to upstate New York to fulfill a commission to paint Niagara Falls for Buffalo collector Charles Carey.

Fig. 2: Niagara Falls, circa 1893–1894. Oil on canvas, 25 x 25 inches. Courtesy of Vose Galleries of Boston.
In the manner of the French master Claude Monet (1840–1926), Twachtman painted at least fourteen versions of Niagara at different times of the day, recording subtle nuances of light and providing some of the rocky structure of the falls to anchor the viewer on firm land (Fig. 1). In this recently discovered painting, the ledge seems to dissolve into a universe of water, light, and spray (Fig. 2). Twachtman’s technique is bold and confident, moving remarkably toward abstraction while remaining true to capturing the appearance of this natural wonder. Found in the attic of one of Twachtman’s family members, this painting has recently been added to the Twachtman catalogue raisonné.

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