Fraenkel Gallery opened its doors in 1979 with an exhibition of photographs of the Pacific Coast by Carleton Watkins. The gallery now celebrates its tenth anniversary and the 150th anniversary of the invention of photography with two major exhibitions of photographs by Carleton Watkins dating from 1861 through 1874. These years, which mark the birth and maturation of Watkin’s vision, also define the first golden age of American landscape photography.
Part I of the exhibition concentrates on Watkin’s photographs of Yosemite and of trees in the Mariposa Grove. The mammoth-plate albumen prints on exhibition are in exceptionally fine condition. Photographs in the exhibition will include various views of such natural moments as Half Dome, Cathedral Rock, and Three Brothers: places to which Watkins returned to explore photographically over the years. The pictures which Watkins tooks in 1861 were instrumental in Congress’s 1864 decision to declare Yosemite inviolate.
When Watkins first entered Yosemite Valley, the medium of photography was barely twenty-two years old. Little tradition existed to guide him in the making of a photograph, especially one dealing with a landscape as extravagant and unfamiliar as Yosemite. Unburdened by established ideas about the way a photograph should look, Watkins approached his subjects limited only by talent and ambition. He had both in ample measure. —from the Introduction of Carleton Watkins, 1989
Accompanying the exhibitions is a 230 page clothbound book with 111 laser Fultone reproductions entitled Carleton E. Watkins published by Fraenkel Gallery in association with Bedford Arts Publishers.
Part II: “Carleton Watkins: The Pacific Coast, Oregon and Utah,” Photographs 1863-1874 will be on exhibit June 28 through August 5, 1989.