WATKINS, Carleton E. (1829-1916, photographer)
[Collection of 56 stereoscopic photographic views from Watkins' Pacific Coast series, principally depicting scenes in Yosemite]
San Francisco: 1867 [copyright date]. 56 stereoscopic albumen prints by Watkins, on original yellow card mounts (3 1/4 x 6 3/4 inches), with his 429 Montgomery Street address.
Housed in a modern morocco backed cloth box.
Important collection of Watkins stereoviews of Yosemite.
Carleton Watkins was one of the finest 19th century landscape photographers. The magnificence of the Yosemite Valley was unknown to settlers until 1849 and it remained so until Watkins brought photographic images of its extraordinary beauty to the public. Watkins's vistas of a serene and underpopulated land demonstrated the ideal harmony between man and nature. "The controlled grandeur of his views of the sublime is encoded not only with classical ideals of simplicity, geometry, and measure but also with a perception of the West as the primordial theatre of an authentically American place" (The Waking Dream, Gilman Paper Company Collection, p. 124). These photographs helped clinch the notion that Yosemite was a relic of Eden in North America. Although Watkins is best known for his mammoth plate photographs, his work was also published as stereoscopic views. In July of 1861 Watkins first traveled to Yosemite equipped with a stereoscopic camera, taking 100 stereoscopic negatives. He returned to Yosemite between 1865 and 1866 which yielded an additional 300 stereoscopic negatives. The present collection includes 50 images of Yosemite (11 from the first series taken in 1861, and 39 from the second series taken between 1865-66), as well as 5 images in San Francisco (including 3 Cliff House views, a July 4 1864 image of Montgomery Street and a view from Telegraph Hill), and an additional image of the entrance to the New Almaden, CA mine. Unusually, the collection is from an early period, with the images on Watkins' yellow card mounts with his Montgomery Street address (images printed subsequently would be on orange cards and a different address post-1871). The stereoviews present here were printed between 1867 and 1868, with many including notice of his Paris International Exposition medal on verso. Photographic historian Peter Palmquist has noted, "As a landscape photographer Watkins is best remembered for his pictures of Yosemite. Not only did he achieve many of his artistic successes there, but Yosemite also became more widely known and appreciated because of his eloquence and vision."
Cf. Peter Palmquist, Carleton E. Watkins, photographer of the American West (Albuquerque, 1983).