The Weight of a Perpetual Creation: George Cook's Tallulah Falls and American Tourist Representations of Waterfalls

by Paul A. Manoguerra





Some of the ideas and text on the relationship between New World and Old World waterfalls in this essay originally appeared in ''A Felicity of Taste or Nature: American Representations of the Waterfalls at Tivoli" in Paul A. Manoguerra with an essay by Janice Simon, Classic Ground: Mid-Nineteenth-Century American Painting and the Italian Encounter (Athens: Georgia Museum of Art, 2004). For my children, Isabella, Anthony, and Jolina.

1 See E. Merton Coulter, Georgia Waters: Tallulah Falls, Madison Springs, Scull Shoals, and the Okefenokee Swamp (Athens: Georgia Historical Quarterly, 1965); Andrew B. McCallister, "'A Source of Pleasure, Profit, and Pride': Tourism, Industrialization, and Conservation at Tallulah Falls, Georgia, 1820-1915" (Master's Thesis, University of Georgia, 2002); and Wade H. Wright, History of the Georgia Power Company, 1855-1956 (Atlanta: Georgia Power, 1957).

2 For more on George Cooke, see Donald D. Keyes, George Cooke (1793-1849) (Athens: Georgia Museum of Art, 1991). See also Kevin E. O'Donnell, "The Artist in the Garden: George Cooke and the Ideology of Fine Arts Painting in Antebellum Georgia" in Ted Olson, ed. Crossroads: A Southern Culture Annual (Macon: Mercer University Press, 2004), 73-96.

3 For more on Daniel Pratt, see Curtis J. Evans, The Conquest of Labor: Daniel Pratt and Southern Industrialization (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2001). For Cooke, also see Jessie Poesch, The Art of the Old South: Painting, Sculpture, and Architecture and the Products of Craftsmen, 1560-1860 (New York: Knopf, 1983).

4 George Cooke, "Sketches of Georgia," Southern Literary Messenger 6, no. 11 (November 1840): 775 and 776.

5 Rev. George White, Historical collections of Georgia: containing the most interesting facts, traditions, biographical sketches, anecdotes, etc. relating to its history and antiquities, from its first settlement to the present time (New York: Pudney & Russell, 1854), 488.

6 For primary source material on eighteenth-century landscape aesthetics see Henry William Beechey, ed., The Literary Works of Sir Joshua Reynolds, First President of the Royal Academy, 2 vols. (London: T. Cadell, 1835); Richard Payne Knight, An Analytical Inquiry into the Principles of Taste, 4th ed. (London: T. Payne, 1808); and John Sunderland, "Uvedale Price and the Picturesque," Apollo 93 (March 1971): 197-203. On the semiotic and political nature of landscape painting, see Ann Bermingham, Landscape and Ideology: The English Rustic Tradition, 1740-1860 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1986). For connections between British and American landscape aesthetics, see Joseph D. Ketner II and Michael J. Tammenga, The Beautiful The Sublime, and The Picturesque: British Influences on American Landscape Painting (St. Louis: Washington University Gallery of Art, 1984).

7 Cooke, "Sketches of Georgia," 775 and 776.

8 T. Addison Richards, Appleton's Illustrated Handbook of American Travel (New York: D. Appleton & Co., 1861), 280-281.

9 Ibid., 281.

10 Marshall Tynn, ed., Thomas Cole: The Collected Essays and Prose Sketches (St.. Paul: John Co let Press, 1980), 131; quoted in William H. Truettner and Alan Wallach, eds., Thomas Cole: Landscape into History (New Haven and Washington, DC: Yale University Press and National Museum of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, 1994), 51.

11 Asher B. Durand, "Letter from a Landscape Painter," The Crayon, 11 July 1855. Roger Stein has argued that this American attitude toward art and nature was influenced by the writings of English critic John Ruskin. Stein states that "the fundamental importance of Ruskin's writing in America in these years before the Civil War was his identification of the interest in art with morality and religion as well as with the love of nature." He writes that Ruskin proposed a "convincing system where art, religion, and nature were inextricably intertwined." See Roger Stein, John Ruskin and Aesthetic Thought in America 1840-1900 (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1967), 41. Also see Barbara Novak, "Sound and Silence: Changing Concepts of the Sublime," in Novak, Nature and Culture: American Landscape Painting 1825-1875, rev. ed. (New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995), 34-44.

12 The Home Book of the Picturesque, or American Scenery, Art and Literature (New York: G. P. Putnam, 1851).

13 James Fenimore Cooper, ''American and European Scenery," in The Home Book of the Picturesque, 69.

14 Jeremy Elwell Adamson et al., Niagara: Two Centuries of Changing Attitudes, 1697-1901 (Washington, DC: The Corcoran Gallery of Art, 1985), 11. For more on tourism, Niagara Falls, and its nationalistic meanings, see Elizabeth McKinsey, Niagara Falls: Icon of the American Sublime (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1985); John F. Sears, Sacred Places: American Tourist Attractions in the Nineteenth Century (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1998), especially page 12, for the quotation of the ritual nature of Niagara tourism; and William Irwin, The New Niagara: Tourism, Technology, and the Landscape of Niagara Falls, 1776-1917 (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1996).

15 Margaret Fuller Easily, "Summer on the Lakes" in Easily, At Home and Abroad: Or, Things and Thoughts in America and Europe (Boston: Brown, Taggard and Chase, 1860), 3-6. Thomas Cole, "Essay on American Scenery," The New England Monthly Magazine 1 (January 1836): 1-12; quoted in John W McCourbey, ed., American Art 1700-1960: Sources and Documents (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1965), 103 and 105. Cooke painted a Falls of Niagara (currently unlocated by the author) which once hung in the Pratt Gallery in Prattville, Alabama, in 1853. See the "Pre1877 Art Exhibition Catalogue Index" at the Smithsonian American Art Museum's web site,

16 Adam Budeau, The Vagabond (New York: Rudd and Carleton, 1859), as quoted in David Carew Huntington, The Landscapes of Frederic Edwin Church: Vision of an American Era (New York: Braziller, 1966),67-68.

17 Gordon Wood, The Radicalism of the American Revolution (New York: Vintage Books, 1991), 229. Martin Christadler categorizes Church's Niagara Falls as "heroic wilderness sublime." See "Romantic Landscape Painting in America: History as Nature, Nature as History," in Thomas W Gaehtgens and Heinz Ickstadt, eds. American Icons: Transatlantic Perspectives on Eighteenth- and Nineteenth-Century American Art (Santa Monica and Chicago: Getty Center for the History of Art and Humanities and the University of Chicago Press, 1992), 93-117. The quotation in the text is from page 105. David Huntington sees in Church's painting a consummate imagining of the young American nation. Bryan Wolf calls Church's images a "melodrama of pigment and impasto," which speak "more to the God of Armageddon. .. than to the transparent eyeball of Emerson." See Bryan Jay Wolf, Romantic Re-Vsion: Culture and Consciousness in Nineteenth-Century American Painting and Literature (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1982), 247. Also, see Amy Ellis's catalogue entry for Church's Niagara Falls in Elizabeth Johns, et al., New Worlds.from Old: 19th Century Australian & American Landscapes (Canberra and Hartford: National Gallery of Australia and Wadsworth Athenaeum, 1998), 165; and Cooper, "American and European Scenery," The Home Book of the Picturesque, 56-57.

18 White, 488.

19 The author's interpretation of the tropes provided by Cooke's tourists relies on Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, Destination Culture: Tourism, Museums, and Heritage (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998), especially page 62. Also see Brigitte Bailey's essay, "The Protected Witness: Cole, Cooper, and the Tourist's View of the Italian Landscape," in David Miller, ed., American Iconology: New Approaches to Nineteenth-Century Art and Literature (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1993), 92-111. For theoretical discussions of tourism and modern society, see John Urry, The Tourist Gaze: Leisure and Travel In Contemporary Societies (London: Sage Publications, 1990), and Dean MacCannell, The Tourist: A New Theory of the Leisure Class (New York: Schocken, 1989).

20 W. J. T. Mitchell, "Imperial Landscape," in Mitchell, ed., Landscape and Power (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 1994), 5.


About the Author

Paul A. Manoguerra is Curator of American Art at the Georgia Museum of Art


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Resource Library editor's note:

The above essay was reprinted, without accompanying illustrations, in Resource Library on May 18, 2006 with the permission of Paul A. Manoguerra and the Georgia Museum of Art. This text is included in the book titled Georgia Inside and Out: Architecture, Landscape, and Decorative Arts. Proceedings from the Second Henry D. Green Symposium of the Decorative Arts held in January 2004, edited by Ashley Callahan.

If you have questions or comments regarding the essay please contact Dr. Manoguerra at the Georgia Museum of Art directly through either this phone number or web address:

Also see Annotations: George Cooke & Thomas Hope and the Influence of Antiquity (5/31/12)

For biographical information on artists cited in this essay please see America's Distinguished Artists, a national registry of historic artists.

rev. 4/15/14

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