About This Artwork

Carleton Watkins
American, 1829–1916

First View of the Yosemite Valley from the Mariposa Trail, 1865/66

Albumen print
39.9 x 52.4 cm (image/paper); 47.4 x 61 cm (mount)
Unmarked recto; verso unchecked

Laura T. Magnuson and Maurice D. Galleher Endowments, 1986.22

In the 1860s, Carleton Watkins was the first to document the untouched wilderness that would become Yosemite National Park. Transporting his fragile equipment on mule or carriage through difficult terrain, Watkins used a "mammoth-plate" camera whose glass negatives measured up to 18 by 22 inches and yielded remarkably detailed prints of the same size. He favored spectacular compositions with dramatic spatial depth. In this photograph, Watkins depicted Yosemite Valley's immense span through the receding planes of mountains and the giant Sequoia trees that frame them. Watkins printed more than 1,100 mammoth-plate photographs over the course of his career. Unfortunately, the majority of his glass negatives and prints were destroyed in the San Francisco earthquake and fire of 1906.

Exhibition, Publication and Ownership Histories

Exhibition History

Chicago, Illinois, Art Institute of Chicago, "A History of Photography from Chicago Collection," April 24–June 6, 1982.

Tokyo, Japan, Seibu Museum, "Art of Photography," March 3–April 1, 1990.

Chicago, Art Institute of Chicago, "A Measure of Nature: Landscape Photographs from the Permanent Collection. May 30–September 7, 1998. (Sylvia Wolf)

Chicago, Art Institute of Chicago, Gallery 10 Permanent Collection Rotation, May–October, 2012.

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