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Joachim Ferdinand Richardt, `Niagara University,` 1873, oil on canvas. Collection of Castellani Art Museum of Niagara University, 1979.
Joachim Ferdinand Richardt, "Niagara University," 1873, oil on canvas. Collection of Castellani Art Museum of Niagara University, 1979.

Castellani Art Museum conserves renowned 19th century campus painting


Fri, Jul 14th 2023 10:45 am

Submitted by the Castellani Art Museum of Niagara University

In 1979, Castellani Art Museum of Niagara University acquired a severely damaged painting, “Niagara University,” by renowned Danish artist Joachim Ferdinand Richardt (1819-95). It depicts the NU campus in 1873, at 17 years old, then known as the College and Seminary of Our Lady of Angels.

In 2021, CAM was awarded a Greater Hudson Heritage Network (GHHN) conservation treatment grant to repair this important work. The painting recently debuted during the summer opening of CAM’s exhibition “Northward: Niagara River Views,” curated by CAM Registrar Mary Helen Miskuly, on display through March 31, 2024.

“This painting is one of the few images that depict the university in the 19th century and is one of over 1,000 Niagara River artworks in our collection,” Miskuly said. “NU was gifted this work from the Diocese of Buffalo, most likely because it features NU’s Clet Hall and a northward view of Niagara River flowing towards Lake Ontario. The cornerstone of this majestic building was laid in 1865; it remains the oldest building on our campus. The painting’s creator was listed as ‘F. Pritchard.’ After extensive research, in 2021, I discovered that the ‘Pr’ in the ‘Pritchard’ signature was the large, exaggerated ‘R’ of Richardt, the famous painter, correcting the decades-long misidentification of the piece.”

A barely discernible train from the New York Central and Hudson River Railroad line is visible, which had passed through the campus in front of what is now Glynn Hall when the painting was created.

In 1857, Richardt’s Niagara Falls paintings were the centerpiece of “The Niagara Gallery” auction in New York City. He returned to Copenhagen at the start of the American Civil War and eventually emigrated to the U.S. in 1873. Richardt lived in Niagara Falls on First Street and painted local landmarks on the American and Canadian sides of the falls. His work is highly sought after and recognized by art collectors worldwide.

CAM was the only Niagara County cultural institution to receive GHHN grant funding in 2021. The GHHN awarded 25 organizations located in 19 New York state counties in partnership with the New York State Council on the Arts. Art conservator Eileen Sullivan (Aurora Art Conservation) was enlisted to conserve the painting, which took 24 weeks.

To learn more about the “Niagara University,” 1873 conservation process, check out this informative short video “Conserving Niagara.”

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