(American, 1829-1916)
Nevada Fall, Yosemite
mammoth plate albumen print on original mount
1865-1866; inscribed verso Nevada Falls 700 Ft. Yosemite No. 92
20 1/2 x 15 3/4 in.

Provenance: A New England Estate.

Literature: Naef, Weston, and Lewis-Hult, Christine, Carleton Watkins: The Complete Mammoth Photographs (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2011), Cat. No. 247, p. 109.

Other Notes: Carleton Watkins first photographed the Yosemite Valley in 1861, producing mammoth-plate negatives (18 x 22 in.) of the awe-inspiring natural landscape. These images ultimately made their way to the East Coast, where they are said to have been shown to Abraham Lincoln in 1863. Lincoln was so moved by the images that he proclaimed that the Yosemite Valley forever remain in the public domain, thereby establishing the precursor to today's Yosemite National Park. In the summers of 1865-6, Watkins returned to the Yosemite Valley, creating numerous striking mammoth-plate photographs as he recorded the now-iconic vistas. These views were faithfully re-photographed by Ansel Adams half a century later. Unfortunately, for much of the twentieth century, Watkins was a forgotten name in the history of American photography, and it was not until the late 1970s that academics and collectors alike began to rediscover his work. The intervening century had not been kind to Watkins' corpus - by the mid-1870s, Watkins was in financial ruin and had ceded control of his negatives to a creditor, and in 1906 the bulk of his work was destroyed in the San Francisco earthquake and fire. Over the years, many universities and public libraries deaccessioned their collection of Watkins' mammoth plate prints. Thus, today, very few examples of Watkins' Yosemite photographs survive, and this newly discovered collection of twenty works - works that represent some of his most recognizable Yosemite views - is a truly remarkable addition to Watkins' oeuvre.

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November 5, 2017 12:00 PM EST
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