A View Showing the American Falls, Luna Island, the Bridal Veil, Goat Island
and The Horseshoe Falls, looking from Prospect Point
Maj. Charles Frederick Gibson (1808-1868) was known as a career military officer ‘with a passion for art’. One arts commentator, writing in the Queen’s Journal (Kingston), described Gibson, the artist, as being accurately observant of the ‘picturesque panoramas’ which he encountered in Canada. One identifying characteristic of his work is his use of “a delicate medium and subtle colours” to create scenes of a soft beauty. His artistry was painstaking. The mixed-media pieces are rendered in watercolour, coloured chalk, pencil, pen-and-ink, and sepia wash. The artist also used the technique of ‘scratching out’ to create certain tones and shades. (The illustration above is done with “charcoal, coloured chalks and watercolour with scratching out, on paper watermarked ‘J WHATMAN/TURKEY MILL/1823′ ”.)There are 9 original and historically-significant illustrations of Niagara Falls by Gibson on view exclusively at TAG Art Gallery. They were done in 1833, very near the end of his first stay in Canada and are unique in the existing canon of Niagara works of that era. They are part of the Gallery’s widely recognized collection of Historical Prints of Niagara which is on display now. The Gibson works include 5 ‘studies’ of Table Rock at the Canadian edge of the Horseshoe Falls. Each depiction of the rock-outcropping is distinctly different from the others. (It would appear that one of them is more realistic, in that it resembles Table Rock drawings done by other artists of the time.) Gibson served as a junior infantry officer at various stations in Upper- and Lower Canada from 1827 to the end of 1833. From 1841 to 1845, he was Aide-de-Camp to General Jeremiah Dickson, commander of all British forces in Nova Scotia. Throughout his military career, Gibson produced a large number of sketches, watercolours and mixed-media works.