John Bachmann

‘Vue Génèrale du Niagara Falls’  (À Vol d’oiseau or Bird’s-eye view) 


John Bachmann (1814-96) was a Swiss-born lithographer and landscape draftsman known for his bird’s-eye views.  He was a journeyman lithographic artist in Switzerland and Paris until 1847, when he moved to New York City.  His first known American print, (credited to ‘C. Bachmann’ as artist and ‘J. Bachmann’ as publisher, appeared in 1848 – he specialized both in bird’s-eye views of American cities, and (during the Civil War) various battle scenes.

According to the Biographical/Historical Notes provided by the New-York Historical Society Museum and Library, “bird’s eye views were actually mathematically compiled on a grid using hundreds of sketches done on the ground”.

Both directly copied and used as a primary source by other lithographers in North America and Europe, Bachmann’s views were the first major bird’s-eye views as opposed to panoramic views.  His bird’s-eye view of Niagara Falls was first published in 1851 and printed by Guerber & Co., NY.  However, he print on display at TAG Gallery, Plate # 71, was printed sometime after 1865 by Eugene Ciceri, a 19th-century French colour-lithographer and painter.

Reference is made at the bottom left margin to ‘Apres nature by Bachman’.

A fascinating feature of this print is the detail attributed to the location of the various islands above the Falls, especially on either side of Goat Island.  Make time soon to visit TAG Art Gallery to learn interesting anecdotes about these island and life on the Niagara River, at the brink of the Falls.  The ‘Historical Prints of Niagara’ Exhibition is only on until the end of Saturday, Oct. 20th, 2018. The Gallery is open Wednesday to Saturday, noon to 6 p.m.