Staff reports Niagara Gazette
Niagara Gazette — Robert Giannetti will present a reading and interpretation of the 19th century comic masterpiece: “The Tour of Dr. Syntax in Search of the Picturesque” from 2 to 4 p.m. Sunday at the Castellani Art Museum. Giannetti’s talk is the final in the series of lectures presented in conjunction with the museum’s exhibition, “The Picturesque and War: Visual and Literary Aspects of 19th Century Niagara Tourism.”
Giannetti is a published author, antiquarian bookseller and guest curator of “The Picturesque and War,” as well as an adjunct professor at Niagara University.
By the time of the War of 1812, a cultural backlash to some of the excesses of tourism had already developed in England. The satiric reaction would come into full bloom in America at mid-century, when the Niagara area began a downward slide into crass commercialism. “The Tour of Dr. Syntax in Search of the Picturesque,” first published in book form in England in 1812, takes aim at the new middle-class vogue of scenic travel and the guidebook industry that had developed around it.
This unique publication imaginatively married the biting satiric verses of George Combed to the rollicking illustrations of Thomas Rowlandson to make pointed statements about some of the absurd lengths to which devotees of the picturesque might go in their quest. These include Dr. Syntax, who is seeking to turn his travels through the countryside into a profitable book, falling off his horse as he sketches a ruined castle and the same good doctor seated in a field sketching a ragged assembly of barnyard animals that is anything but sublime. In America, Niagara Falls tourism had truly gone from the sublime to the ridiculous in the era just before the Civil War, as this selection of contemporary satiric images of tightrope walkers and various hucksters attests.
“The Picturesque and War: Visual and Literary Aspects of 19th Century Niagara Tourism” and related programming is made possible by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature and is sponsored, in part, by the Niagara 1812 Bicentennial Legacy Council, the Canadian Consulate General and Old Glory Flag & Banner, a division of Cooper Sign Company, Niagara Falls, NY. The exhibition runs through Feb. 24.
This event is free and open to the public. For more information, please visit http://www.castellaniartmuseum.org or call 286-8200.