Godfrey Frankenstein

Godfrey Nicolas Frankenstein (1820 – 1873), was a German-American painter, he was later known as “The Painter of Niagara Falls” after creating about a hundred paintings of the national treasure.

Godfrey Nicolas Frankenstein was born in Darmstadt, Germany in 1820, and emigrated to Cincinnati, Ohio in 1831 with his family.

In 1831, the family immigrated to the United States. They survived and were fortunate in being able to save nearly all of their valuables. An “exceedingly kind and wealthy family” took in the family, but later in the year they continued their journey west to their future home, Cincinnati, Ohio.

The father, who changed the family name to Frankenstein upon arriving in the United States, was a teacher and professor of languages, and later became a talented cabinetmaker.

Subsequently the family moved to Springfield, Ohio in 1849. The Frankenstein family was a gifted group of German immigrant artists that included John Peter (1816-1881), Godfrey N. (1820-1873), George (1825-), Gustavus (-1902), Marie (1822-1900 and Eliza (1828-1919).

As the children grew to adulthood, they all showed significant artistic talent, the most prominent artist being Gustavus’ older brother Godfrey. Godfrey Frankenstein opened his own business when he was 13 years old as a sign painter and at 19 was a portrait painter.

In 1841 he became the first president of the Cincinnati Academy of Arts.

He soon became interested in landscape painting, especially the Niagara Falls, which he began painting in 1844.

In 1844 Godfrey visited Niagara Falls for the first time and was so moved by the grandeur and beauty of the place that he spent much of the next 22 years depicting the falls during every season of the year on huge canvases.

During the early 1850s, Gustavus assisted his brother in this undertaking. These paintings were eventually formed into an immense panorama which was rolled from one spindle to another while a lecture was read, and exhibitions were held in Cincinnati, New York, and Philadelphia.

In 1867, the Frankenstein brothers traveled to Europe, spending a season in England painting scenes of the countryside. They then travelled through the Alps creating numerous canvases including the one now in the collection of Glessner House Museum. Upon their return to London, “it was acknowledged that Mont Blanc and Chamouni Valley had never before been painted with such power and beauty.” They returned to the United States in 1869.

Godfrey Frankenstein died in 1873.

The painting on display at Glessner House Museum was executed between 1867 and 1869 when Gustavus and Godfrey Frankenstein were traveling through the Alps.