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The Niagara Falls in Winter

Hippolyte-Victor-Valentin Sebron

(1801 - 1879) | 880.2.2

Date : 1857 | Medium : Oil on canvas

With Bouton, Granet and Bouhot, Hippolyte Sebron was one of a group of artists who followed a model established by Louis Daguerre, painting detailed landscape scenes in which the contrasting effects of light evoked the tableaux used in diorama theatres, the ancestors of the modern cinema. Of these scenes, those depicting ruins and the interiors of churches were very common.

Sebron was an artist who was particularly gifted in this genre. A pupil of Daguerre’s from the age of 29, he was prolific in the views, monuments and landscapes he produced, inspired by his travels in Europe, to the Mediterranean region, and in the United States.

He stayed in America between 1849 and 1855, visiting New York and Louisiana. A view of Broadway, placed in the Musée national de la cooperation franco-américaine in Blérancourt by the Musée de Rouen, is perhaps his most highly regarded work; it is a moving and precisely-captured testimony to New York life in the 1850s.

His attention to detail is demonstrated here in the carefully descriptive rendering of the family of Native Americans hiding behind a rock in the foreground and in the birds that we can almost name by species. His skill is evident in the way he plays with light to achieve an effect of icy brightness across the landscape. He creates a sense of drama with a sudden shaft of sunlight that pierces the clouds to light up the hunter’s camp while the opposite bank of the river, where the Indians wait and watch, remains cast in shadow.