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The thundering beauty of Niagara captured in art

As an exhibition, it's almost as overwhelming as its subject, Niagara Falls. There are over 250 paintings, watercolors, drawings, photographs, and memorabilia that either depict or relate to America's best-known natural wonder, including outstanding examples by such 19th-century masters as Bierstadt, Church, Cole, Cropsey, Hunt, Inness, Moran, and Twachtman. Church is represented by his famous 1857 ``Niagara Falls,'' which is generally conceded to be the best painted depiction of the falls, while Cropsey serves up a wondrously romantic version that is quite Rubensesque in its extravagant movement and suggestion of thundering power. All that's missing is the noise and the spray and the vibrations underfoot as the waters rush over the edge. Nothing else is overlooked in this show at the New-York Historical Society here which was organized by the Corcoran Gallery in Washington, D.C. We see Niagara from every possible angle, under sunny skies and during rain- and snowstorms, at the height of summer and at the dead of winter with ice and sleet blanketing every inch of the landscape.

There is a 1697 engraving that depicts the falls as three large, rigidly defined spurts of water; a fanciful view of a watery never-never land complete with a romanticized Indian by Thomas Davies; a delightful glimpse of Niagara as the setting for a Garden of Eden by Edward Hicks; and a dreamy, honeymoon-inspiring night view of the falls by Herbert Herzog.

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The list goes on and on, with everything conspiring to make a visit to this show a memorable event. At the New-York Historical Society through April 27.

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