||CALYO, Nicolino (1799-1884)
General View of Niagara Falls
Original watercolour and bodycolour, within a thick black line border, with and integral outer 'frame' of grey wash, the title inscribed in white on this gray wash 'frame'. Gilt frame. Image size (including text): 5 x 7 11/16 inches. 6 1/4 x 8 3/4 inches.
A beautifully observed and typically detailed work from Nicolino Calyo in the classical Italian 'veduta' or 'view' tradition.
Nicolino Calyo's work is well-represented in American museums and institutions, with examples at the White House, the Baltimore Museum of Art, the New York Historical Society, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, Belmont Mansion in Nashville, the Amon Carter Museum in Fort Worth, the Maryland Historical Society in Baltimore, the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts in Maryland and the Museum of the City of New York.
Calyo was born in Naples, Italy, where he studied art at the Royal Academy. After some time travelling in Europe (he apparently lived briefly in both Malta and Spain) he emigrated to the United States in about 1830, setting up a studio initially in Baltimore. He left for Philadelphia and the north in about June 1835, arriving in New York in time to record the disastrous Great Fire of 16 and 17 December 1835 (two of the resulting pictures were later reproduced in aquatint by by William James Bennett [1789-1844]). Calyo subsequently made New York his home and the city directories from 1838 to 1855 all list him as either a 'portrait and landscape painter' or a 'professor of painting.' By the late 1840s his Italian-born son John A. Calyo (1818-1893) had joined him and they advertised as 'N. Calyo & Son,' historical painters and teachers. The original reason for his leaving Italy had been political, and given this background it is not surprising to find that his New York home became a gathering place for other European exiles (including the future Napoleon III [1808-1873]). Calyo apparently made one significant return visit to Europe, when he travelled to Spain (where he worked as Court painter to Queen Maria Cristina [1806-1878]), but he returned to New York in 1874 and remained there for the rest of his life.
Calyo is best known for the watercolour and gouache views of American cities and landmarks (such as the present work) but he also painted scenes taken from the Mexican War of 1846-1848 and an enormous forty-foot panorama of the Connecticut River. He exhibited paintings at American Society of Painters in Watercolor in New York between 1867 and 1869. The style he employs is quite distinctive among American artists, and as Kathleen Foster notes, his Italian training 'dominates his method . . . conditioning his liberal use of gouache, which imparts an opaque, slightly chalky surface to his work, setting it apart from the English style of transparent watercolor more familiar to American artists of that period.' (Kathleen Foster in Philadelphia: Three Centuries of American Art [Philadelphia: Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1976], p. 300)
G.-G. Deak Picturing America,1988
J. Poesch The Art of the Old South, 1983
S.K. Johnston American Painting 1750-1900, 1983
R.J. Koke American Landscape/Genre Paintings in the New York Historical Society, 1982
T.E. Stebbins American Master Drawings and Watercolors, 1976