HOLMES, After William Henry (1846-1933)
The Temples and Towers of the Virgin [Grand Cañon District Atlas Sheet IV]
[New York]: Julius Bien & Co, . Tinted lithograph by Julius Bien & Co. (Small tears to original fold). Image size (including text): 16 5/8 x 29 7/16 inches. Sheet size: 20 1/8 x 32 1/2 inches.
A fine image from "one of the grandest publications of the scientific explorations in the American West", by arguably one of the greatest American topographical artists who recorded this important era of westward expansion.
This magnificent image is from the atlas volume of the official government report of the first great geological survey of the Grand Canyon. The team assembled to carry out the survey included some outstanding talents: Clarence E.Dutton, the scientist; Jack Hilliers, the photographer, and William Henry Holmes and Thomas Moran as artist-topographers. Holmes had already taken part in the Hayden survey of 1872-1877, and after serving with the Geological survey from 1880-1884, he turned to Ethnology and Anthropology, becoming chief of the Bureau of American Ethnology in 1902. From 1930 to 1932 he was director of the National Gallery of Art. The intention of the survey of the Grand Canyon was strictly scientific, but as Dutton writes in his preface, "I have in many places departed from the severe ascetic style which has become conventional in scientific monographs." This is also true of Moran and Holmes: both were clearly inspired by their subjects. As Wallace Stegner wrote in his introduction to the 1977 reprint of the whole work "Later specialization has eliminated from scientific publications most of the elements that make The Tertiary History so charming. No report written as this one is written would now be published by any government bureau. No illustrators like Moran and Holmes would be permitted to illustrate it... A great book... The Tertiary History has kept its value precisely because it does not specialize".
Cf. Francis P.Farquhar. The Books of the Colorado River & the Grand Canyon (Los Angeles: 1953) 73; cf. W.B.Reese & G.A.Miles Depicting America (New Haven: 1992) 40.