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After four-and-a-half years in Paris, John Vanderlyn returned to his native America in the spring of 1801. As Vanderlyn biographer William Oedel wrote, “When Vanderlyn returned to New York…his academic training and modern French style, his credentials as an exhibitor at the Salon and as the portraitist of famous Americans in Paris would assure him of patronage in high places” (John Vanderlyn: French Neoclassicism and the Search for an American Art, Ph.D dissertation, University of Delaware, University Microfilms International, 1981, p. 25). But the artist had grander ambitions than to become just a portrait painter, and, like other Americans who had been directly exposed to contemporary European art, he aspired to paint history. Realizing that patronage in America was largely confined to face painting, he shortly began to plan a return to Paris. Meanwhile, however, with the encouragement of his early patron, Aaron Burr, he traveled to Niagara Falls in September 1801, and during the next few years produced two large paintings of the Falls. Upon his return to New York in the fall of 1801, Vanderlyn realized that portraiture represented his only secure means of income, and during his two years back in America, in 1801–03, he was kept busy as a portrait artist. As the first American painter to have been trained in Paris, his style was in keeping with a new interest in French taste

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