Carleton E. Watkins: Part II The Pacific Coast, Oregon and Utah Photographs 1863 – 1874

(San Francisco, 14 June 1989) 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 to 1874. These years, which mark the birth and maturation of Watkins’ vision, also define the first golden age of American landscape photography.

Part II of the exhibition concentrates on Watkins’ work after his groundbreaking Yosemite photographs of 1861 through 1866. His definitive view of San Francisco from Telegraph Hill (c.1868) as well as mammoth-plate images of the Cliff House and Seal Rocks will be included. Among Watkins’ most astonishing photographs are those he made on the uninhabited Farallon Islands (c. 1869), thirty miles off the coast of San Francisco. The very act of transporting his enormous glass plates, chemicals, freshwater, and darktent to these remote islands and back remain an impressive feat even by today’s standards.

In 1867 Watkins photographed along the Columbia River in Oregon, producing some of his most well-known images, such as “City of Portland,” “Cape Horn,” and “Castle Rock.” Watkins later brought the same sensitivity to his photographs of early mining sites that he did to his more classic landscapes. The exhibition concludes with two images made on a trip to Utah in 1873 with the painter WIlliam Keith. Because Watkins’ printer broke several of his glass-plates upon his return from Utah, these images are among his most scarce.

Accompanying the exhibitions is a 230-page clothbound book with 111 laser reproductions entitled Carleton E. Watkins published by Fraenkel Gallery in association with Bedford Arts Publishers.