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    VICTOR DE GRAILLY (French, 1804-1889)
    Niagara Falls, circa 1850
    Oil on canvas
    17 x 23-1/2 inches (43.2 x 59.7 cm)
    Signed lower center in the shadow of a boulder: Grailly or Chailly

    Vose Galleries, Boston.

    The author of this remarkable view of Niagara Falls, French artist Victor de Grailly, gained considerable popularity in the United States for his landscape paintings of American views. Although there is some speculation that de Grailly may have been in the United States from 1840 to 1870, there is no concrete evidence to support this as many of de Grailly's American landscapes were based on engravings from British artist-adventurer William Henry Bartlett's American Scenery series published in London in 1840.

    Nevertheless, de Grailly's lively scenes found a ready audience in the United States, and his work was exhibited in locales as diverse as Charleston, South Carolina; Baltimore, Toronto; New York; Brooklyn; Albany; and Sandusky, Ohio. In 1854, a number of his paintings were auctioned in Portland, Maine.

    De Grailly was born in Paris and began his art studies under Jean Victor Bertin, a neo-classical landscape painter who also taught Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot. De Grailly first exhibited at the Paris Salon in 1833, where he continued to show his paintings until 1880. He made copies of works by Claude Lorrain, but also painted original compositions of French, Italian, and British landscapes. His paintings can be found in important public collections including The White House, Baltimore Museum of Art, Brooklyn Museum of Art, Farnsworth Museum of Art, Portland Museum of Art, New-York Historical Society, and the West Point Museum.

    This lot is accompanied by a richly-informative letter from 19th-century American landscape specialist, Dr. Michael Quick. In it he endorses the attribution to de Grailly on the basis of photographs, identifies the artist's specific vantage point on the falls, and makes careful note of the specific formal qualities of the painting which are characteristic of de Grailly's style.

    As Dr. Quick notes, in part: "The view is from Goat Island on the American side, with the Upper Falls in the foreground, including atop the falls a boardwalk that led to a tower, and then the great horseshoe beyond it and the great sweep of the Canadian (then English) Falls in the distance, with the Canadian bank of the Niagara River in the far distance. The foreground is enlivened by a group of picnickers on the sloping grass at the left, and a couple strolling down the path at the right. There are goats near both groups, and banks of mature foliage rising beyond them at both the left and the right.

    Like many or all of de Grailly's American subjects, this painting was based on an early engraving, specifically the published engraving, Niagara Falls, by William James Bennett from the 1830s. The painting followed the engraving quite closely, although the painter added the promenading couple on the descending path, which he enlarged, and he updated the Bennett image by adding the Terrapin Tower (1829-1870), which he may have seen in the Daguerreotypes that were widely available in the 1850's. It is characteristic of de Grailly to enlarge the path in order to create movement into depth. Also typical of the painter is the way he enlarged the distant foliage groups in the distance in order to create a deeper far distance. Entirely typical of the artist are his addition of the bulky cumulus clouds. Thus he has added considerably greater form in the distance, with the enhanced tree groups and the bank of clouds, both with the objective of increasing the prominence and depth of the distance. This stress upon a very deep distance is part of de Grailly's style.

    Both the range of colors and the range of their intensity are entirely characteristic of de Grailly, including the addition of the color associated with sunset. To my eye, everything about the way that this landscape was painted it characteristic of the artist's style. It is my considered and definite opinion that this painting, Niagara Falls, is the work of Victor de Grailly, without any doubt."

    Condition Report*: Faint linear scratch running thru center of picture. The following condition report was prepared by Simon Parkes Art Conservation, Inc.: This canvas has been lined using wax as an adhesive onto a solid support which has been backed with linen. In all likelihood this is easily reversible yet because the painting bears some cracks, which is not a-typical for pictures from this period, it will need to be lined. However, the condition of the painting in general is lovely. Reversing this lining is essentially the only work required. Framed Dimensions 22.5 X 20 Inches
    *Heritage Auctions strives to provide as much information as possible but encourages in-person inspection by bidders. Statements regarding the condition of objects are only for general guidance and should not be relied upon as complete statements of fact, and do not constitute a representation, warranty or assumption of liability by Heritage. Some condition issues may not be noted in the condition report but are apparent in the provided photos which are considered part of the condition report. Please note that we do not de-frame lots estimated at $1,000 or less and may not be able to provide additional details for lots valued under $500. All lots are sold "AS IS" under the Terms & Conditions of Auction.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    November, 2011
    8th Tuesday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 4
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 2,547

    Buyer's Premium per Lot:
    19.5% of the successful bid (minimum $14) per lot.

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