You find yourself right at the edge of the fall. The water rushes past you in waves and twirls. The current is strong, tugging at you, ready to fall into the gorge.Frederic E. Church chose a very dramatic viewpoint for this painting. There is nothing between you and the force of nature. It grabs you right where you are and you feel like you need to hold on to something while you stand in awe at the huge amounts of water that are rushing past you with incredible energy.
Church does more than just portray the Niagara falls. He is fully dedicated to the details and pays great attention to the physics of flowing water. Further back you see the water gushing down in orderly white streams, dissolving into a haze of spray. The closer you get, though, the more colour nuances you discover in the water.
In the foreground, you can observe clear water flowing over singular rock slates and then foaming up into a white tumble. You find dark streams flowing into and over each other. In places the water is swirled around so much that it momentarily strives upstream.
You glimpse a wooden twig in the water, soon to be torn into the abyss. You realise that, against these magnificient forces, you are just as powerless as this twig.
A humbling thought.
Artwork: Frederic E. Church, 1857, Niagara. Seen in American Paradise: The World of the Hudson River School