About this artwork
In 1871 Timothy O’Sullivan, an experienced outdoor photographer, was recruited to contribute to a survey of the American Southwest with goals of assessing the native population, selecting sites for future military installations and railways, identifying mineral and other resources, and clarifying the border with Mexico. Working with cartographers and natural scientists, O’Sullivan documented lands unexplored by non-Native Americans, providing highly detailed photographs such as this image of Canyon de Chelly in northwestern northeastern Arizona, which had been continuously inhabited by the Anasazi and Navajo for nearly 5,000 years. Here O’Sullivan depicted the White House ruins, the striations of the canyon wall, and two small figures below, conveying the site’s monumental character. Although O’Sullivan’s famously sparse views are considered by some as forerunners to the modernist aesthetic of the early 20th century, such documents were likely intended only to imitate the graphic simplicity of maps and charts.
Currently Off View
- Timothy O'Sullivan
- Ancient Ruins in the Cañon de Chelle, N.M. In a niche 50 feet above present Cañon bed.
- United States
- Albumen print
- Stamped recto, on album page, upper center, in black ink: "[War Department insignia]"; printed recto, on album page, upper left, in black ink: "Geographical & Geological Explorations & Surveys West of the 100th. Meridan."; recto, on album page, upper right, in black ink: "Expedition of 1873.-Lieut. Geo. M. Wheeler, Corps of Engineers, Commanding."; recto, on album page, lower left, below image, in black ink: "T. H. O'Sullivan, Phot."; recto, on album page, lower right, below image, in black ink: "No. 10."; recto, on album page, lower center, below image, in black ink: "ANCIENT RUINS IN THE CAÑON DE CHELLE, N.M. / In a niche 50 feet above present Cañon bed."; unmarked verso
- 27.4 × 20.1 cm (image/paper); 49.7 × 39.3 cm (mount)
- Photography Gallery Fund