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Foot of Niagara
Niagara Falls, watercolour painting, foot of Niagara,power, water, base of Niagara Falls, expressing awe, last ice age, 10,000 years ago, the Great Lakes, Niagara escarpment, glacial meltwater, Niagara River, erosion-resistant dolostone, Thunder of Waters, watercolour on paper, the Niagara River, Lake Erie, rock erosion, Lake Ontario, glacier retreat, talus, rock formation, limestone, geologic time, Horseshoe Falls, tourism versus nature, honeymoon destination, dolostone, caprock, shale, sandstone, eroding rock, \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\"Thunder of Waters\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\", Iroquois, carving Niagara Falls, water power of Niagara Falls, tourism, honeymoon destination,
description

With his  watercolourAny paint that uses water as a solvent. Paintings done with this medium are known as watercolours. What carries the pigment in watercolour (called its medium, vehicle, or base) is gum arabic. An exception to this rule is water miscible oil paints, which employ water as their solvent, but are actually oil paints. Colours are usually applied and spread with brushes, but other tools can also used. The most common techniques for applying watercolour are called wet-on-dry and wet-on-wet, along with the dry brush techniques dry-on-dry and dry-on-wet. Colours can be removed while still wet, to various degrees by blotting. Most watercolour painting is done on paper, but other absorbent grounds can also be employed. The papers most favored by those who paint with watercolour is white, very thick, with high rag content, and has some tooth. (Artlex.com)  of the foot of Niagara Falls, from the MacKenzie Art Gallery collection, Henry Martin has captured a view of one of the most visited, painted and photographed locations in the world. Most images of the falls depict the immensity of the waterfall from the top; Martin has recorded a less common view, as the rushing, roaring water descends to the base of the falls. Perhaps Martin was trying to emphasize his awe of the “fear factor” inherent in depicting the power of the falls.

Niagara Falls is a spectacular feature that originated near the end of the last  Ice AgeFind out about ice ages at: Canadian Museum of Nature: http://www.nature.ca/notebooks/englIsh/iceage.htm Cracking the Ice Age at Nova Online: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/ice/ A quick background to the last ice age: http://www.esd.ornl.gov/projects/qen/nerc130k.html Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ice_age   about 12,000 years ago. The continental ice sheet that covered this area gouged out depressions that filled with glacial  meltwaterWater released by the melting of ice and snow, including that of glaciers.  as the ice retreated.  Thus, Canada's Great Lakes were formed. Glacial  meltwaterWater released by the melting of ice and snow, including that of glaciers.  also helped to carve the course of the Niagara River which links Lake Erie to Lake Ontario. Niagara Falls was born at the point where the Niagara River crossed the Niagara Escarpment, the cliff face of a ridge capped by a top layer of erosion-resistant  dolostoneFind out about dolostones at: Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dolostone Limestone and Dolostone: http://www.state.ar.us/agc/limeston.htm Dolostone: http://hyperphysics.phy-astr.gsu.edu/hbase/geophys/dolostone.html Neighborhood Rocks: http://saltthesandbox.org/rocks/dolostone.htm   underlain by a shale layer that erodes much more easily than the dolostone. In time, the river eroded the softer layer underneath, carving out the falls. The word “Niagara” comes from an Iroquois word meaning “Thunder of Waters”.

Until about 600 to 800 years ago, there was only one Niagara Falls but today three waterfalls make up the Falls: the Canadian Horseshoe Falls, the American Falls and the Bridal Veil Falls. Curious visitors came to view the falls in the 18th century, and the advent of the railway brought more and more tourists to the area. By the second half of the 19th century Niagara Falls was a famous tourist and honeymoon destination.

Horseshoe falls

During the peak summer season over 170,000 cubic metres of water flow over the American, Bridal Veil and Canadian Falls (seen here at left) every minute; the average flow is about 110,000 cubic metres per minute. This stupendous volume of water has eroded the falls from their original location near Queenston, Ontario and Lewiston, New York, several miles southward. With the diversion of water to hydroelectric generating stations, engineers have slowed the rate or erosion, but the natural processes continue. At Horseshoe Falls, the water drops more than 50 metres from the top of the Falls to the river gorge below.

Even 150 years ago not everyone was enamoured with the commercialization of the Falls. William Francis Butler, an English Army officer who wrote extensively about his travels across the vastness of western Canada, had this to say about his visit to the Falls in 1869:

“It was early in the month of September, three years prior to the time I now write of, when I visited this famous spot. The Niagara season was at its height: the tourists were doing the falls and the touts were doing the tourists. Newly-married couples were conducting themselves in that demonstrative manner characteristic of such people in the New World. … altogether, Niagara was a place to be instinctively shunned.” (Butler, 1872)

Butler obviously held a minority opinion. The Niagara Parks Commission that manages the area even today faces constant challenges to maintain the area’s natural beauty in the face of newer, bigger monster hotels, casinos, viewing towers, wax museums and other developments that large-scale tourism brings with it.

Martin has painted a view from the base of the American Falls (seen here at right), which are more accessible by foot than the Horseshoe Falls. In the  foregroundIn a painting or drawing, the foreground is usually composed of images at the bottom of the frame. They give the appearance of being closest to the viewer.  Martin depicts rock fall (talus) that has accumulated at the base of the Falls. There have been numerous rock falls since Martin painted this scene in 1890, including a spectacular collapse at Prospect Point in 1954; a considerable time ago in human terms, but the blink of an eye in geologic terms.

American falls
additional resources Things to Think About
  • People are fascinated by and attracted to waterfalls. Why do you think this is?
  • Today, people line up and pay large sums of money to be spun, whipped around, thrown in the air and dropped into pools of water on summer fair rides. Is this desire to be frightened out of our minds the same impulse that created the idea of The Sublime?  Or is it a similar impulse?
Advanced Activity

The following sites include information about history and artwork related to Niagara Falls.

  • Photos and facts about people who went over the Falls at The Daredevils of Niagara Falls
  • Here are two videos on Niagara Falls from YouTube.  This first video is entitled "Niagara Falls":



    This second video shows Niagara Falls in the winter:

 

Online Activity
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In the list of words provided through the Shapes button options, click on words relating to landscape features in Henry Martin’s painting. Use a dictionary if some of the words are unfamiliar.  Here are some online dictionaries you can use:

Take three of the words in the list and use them as a starting point to create a landscape online. Your  landscapeA painting, photograph or other work of art which depicts scenery such as mountains, valleys, trees, rivers and forests. There is invariably some sky in the scene. (Artlex.com) Landscape is also a term that may also refer simply to a horizontally-oriented rectangle, just as a vertically-oriented one may be said to be oriented the portrait way. (Artlex.com)  might be about Niagara or a scene you invent. Make your  virtualExisting not in actual fact or form, but in essence or effect in the mind, especially as a product of the imagination or of illusion. (Artlex.com)   paintingWorks of art made with paint on a surface. Often the surface, also called a support, is either a tightly stretched piece of canvas or a panel. How the ground (on which paint is applied) is prepared on the support depends greatly on the type of paint to be used. Paintings are usually intended to be placed in frames, and exhibited on walls, but there have been plenty of exceptions. Also, the act of painting, which may involve a wide range of techniques and materials, along with the artist's other concerns which effect the content of a work. (Artlex.com)  in the  frameSomething made to enclose a picture or a mirror; or an enclosure composed of parts and joined together; or to make such things. (Artlex.com)  provided using the Line button options.

Studio Activity

You may have had the opportunity to visit Niagara Falls, or if not, maybe you will in the future. It is one of the most famous Canadian landmarks, recognized throughout the world and voted as one of the Seven Wonders of Canada in 2007 as you can read at The Seven Wonders of Canada (CBC) at: http://www.cbc.ca/sevenwonders/

  • The following short film features the Falls (with a short commentary in French) – Falls at Youtube

     
  • Here also is a website which discusses the Origins of Niagara: A Geological History: http://www.iaw.com/~falls/origins.html

Create a list of the “seven wonders” in your area. These might be human-made, created by nature.

Learn about and make postcards

If you go to Niagara Falls, you will see people buying souvenirs and postcards to send to their friends.  Sending picture postcards has provided a traditional communication vehicle for tourists for well over a hundred years.  Antique postcards are sought after as collectors’ items.

Perhaps nowadays, the practice of sending picture postcards is becoming less common because tourists have access to Internet cafés in most locations, or they have cellphones that can send instant  digitalA system of representing images or objects through numbers. These numbers can then be re-interpreted by another digital system to generate light and sound.  images. But travelers still like to collect postcards from places they visit.

  • Go to Postcard Pages for information on the Picture Postcard as a Collectors’ Item.
  • The following site (Capturing History:  Joseph Frederick Spaulding) from the University of Victoria provides information about a Canadian (Joseph Frederick Spalding) who photographed landscapes for Canadian postcards

Make your own postcards

  • Find and share different styles of postcards. The formats of postcards vary; some have just one picture on the front, while others have several small pictures surrounding a circular picture in the centre. Some have a message printed over top of the pictures or the name of the place is featured on the card.
  • Photograph a place you want to feature on your postcard. It can be in your community or area. You might even photograph your house, street or farm.
  • Scan or import your pictures into a computer, then open them into a photo manipulation program. Organize your pictures as a photo-collage, or just use one picture.
  • Organize the photo images and text to fit within standard postcard dimensions (see template below).
  • Print your postcard on cardstock. Below is a template for the address and message side, which can be printed on the cardstock first (on the back) Alternatively you could print the photo separately and glue it onto the card.

Template

Things to do with your postcards

  • As a class project it might be fun to make a set of postcards about where you live and send them to a school/class in another part of Canada or elsewhere.
  • Instead of a printing a message on the back, write a very short story. Use your picture as a starting point. For some inspiration, go to this lesson plan on postcard fiction from Apple
  • Trade postcards with each other. 
  • And remember that you can create electronic postcards for any of the artworks on the ARTSask website!

Electronic postcards

  • Look at examples of online card sites such as:
  • Import a picture that you have saved in your computer into PowerPoint. Add text above or below the image.
  • You might want to create and add an appropriate music clip to go with your message.
  • Post your e-card on Facebook or MySpace, or email it to a friend. 

Explore more ideas through artist trading cards. Find out more at Artist Trading Cards. Visit the artist trading card gallery at the ATC website.

Science Behind the Art

By:  Fran Haidl, Saskatchewan Ministry of Energy and Resources, with contributions from Alan Morgan and Peter Russell, University of Waterloo

Martin’s  paintingWorks of art made with paint on a surface. Often the surface, also called a support, is either a tightly stretched piece of canvas or a panel. How the ground (on which paint is applied) is prepared on the support depends greatly on the type of paint to be used. Paintings are usually intended to be placed in frames, and exhibited on walls, but there have been plenty of exceptions. Also, the act of painting, which may involve a wide range of techniques and materials, along with the artist's other concerns which effect the content of a work. (Artlex.com)  Foot of Niagara is of the American Falls on the east side of the Niagara River; the view is to the southwest. The two people are standing below Prospect Point in the United States, upriver from the present position of the Rainbow Bridge. They are walking through blocks of  dolostoneFind out about dolostones at: Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dolostone Limestone and Dolostone: http://www.state.ar.us/agc/limeston.htm Dolostone: http://hyperphysics.phy-astr.gsu.edu/hbase/geophys/dolostone.html Neighborhood Rocks: http://saltthesandbox.org/rocks/dolostone.htm   that fell from the top of the waterfall.

Niagara Escarpment Map The development of the American, Bridal Veil and Horseshoe Falls, which until 600-800 years ago formed a single waterfall, began at the end of the last Ice Age about 12,000 years ago. As the glaciers melted, water trapped in glacial lakes began to pour over the Niagara Escarpment via the Niagara River. The Escarpment is a cliff face of a ridge composed of gently tilted rock layers deposited in a warm inland sea between about 450 and 425 million years ago. In the Niagara area, the ridge and the Escarpment itself are capped by dolostone, a resistant  sedimentary rockRock formed by the deposit of eroded igneous rock, often in strata or beds. Examples include limestone and sandstone. (Artlex.com)  that is about 425 million years old. Below this hard  dolostoneFind out about dolostones at: Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dolostone Limestone and Dolostone: http://www.state.ar.us/agc/limeston.htm Dolostone: http://hyperphysics.phy-astr.gsu.edu/hbase/geophys/dolostone.html Neighborhood Rocks: http://saltthesandbox.org/rocks/dolostone.htm   is a shale bed that is a few million years older than the caprock. When these layers are exposed to erosive forces, the shale erodes much more easily than the capping dolostone. This results in removal of shale under the  dolostoneFind out about dolostones at: Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dolostone Limestone and Dolostone: http://www.state.ar.us/agc/limeston.htm Dolostone: http://hyperphysics.phy-astr.gsu.edu/hbase/geophys/dolostone.html Neighborhood Rocks: http://saltthesandbox.org/rocks/dolostone.htm   which in turn causes collapse of portions of the overlying  dolostoneFind out about dolostones at: Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dolostone Limestone and Dolostone: http://www.state.ar.us/agc/limeston.htm Dolostone: http://hyperphysics.phy-astr.gsu.edu/hbase/geophys/dolostone.html Neighborhood Rocks: http://saltthesandbox.org/rocks/dolostone.htm   layer. It is largely these processes that are responsible for the formation of the Falls and incision of the Niagara Gorge. The Falls have eroded rapidly upstream – about 11 kilometres over 12,000 years. The present rate of erosion has been slowed down by the diversion of water to power plants in the U.S.A. and Canada. At peak flow 170,000 cubic metres of water pour over the American, Bridal Veil and Horseshoe Falls per minute. Normally water flows over the Falls at 110,000 cubic metres per minute.

If this  paintingWorks of art made with paint on a surface. Often the surface, also called a support, is either a tightly stretched piece of canvas or a panel. How the ground (on which paint is applied) is prepared on the support depends greatly on the type of paint to be used. Paintings are usually intended to be placed in frames, and exhibited on walls, but there have been plenty of exceptions. Also, the act of painting, which may involve a wide range of techniques and materials, along with the artist's other concerns which effect the content of a work. (Artlex.com)  were to be done today, the profile of Prospect Point would be different, and the pile of  dolostoneFind out about dolostones at: Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dolostone Limestone and Dolostone: http://www.state.ar.us/agc/limeston.htm Dolostone: http://hyperphysics.phy-astr.gsu.edu/hbase/geophys/dolostone.html Neighborhood Rocks: http://saltthesandbox.org/rocks/dolostone.htm   blocks at the base of the American Falls would be much larger because in 1931 and again in 1954, large volumes of rock broke away from Prospect Point sending huge blocks, some the size of a house, into Niagara Gorge. Additional blocks were added later in that year when dynamite was used to remove two sections of Prospect Point that were left hanging precariously as a result of the original rock fall. In 1969 the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers stopped the flow of the American Falls in an attempt to remove the fallen blocks and strengthen the rock face. The fallen blocks were found to support the vertical rock face and removing them would have increased the speed of erosion so they left them alone.
 
More information can be found on the following websites:

  • American Falls Survey -1969 Falls dry: here and here and here
References

Bell, Michael. 1973.  Painters in a New Land: from Annapolis Royal to the Klondike.  Toronto, Ontario:  McClelland and Stewart, Toronto.

“Sites/Sights in Canadian Art,” A Community Programme Exhibition from the Norman Mackenzie Art Gallery, Regina, 1981. P. 15.

Canadian Heritage University of Regina Mackenzie Art Gallery Mendel Art Gallery Sask Learning