Timothy O’Sullivan

Black and white photograph of a river winding through a rocky canyon

Photographs by Timothy O’Sullivan, one of the great American photographers of the nineteenth century, will be on view at Fraenkel Gallery, 55 Grant Avenue, from January 9 – February 16, 1980. The exhibition at Fraenkel Gallery is the first ever to assemble photographs from all four major bodies of O’Sullivan’s work. Particular emphasis has been given to locating prints in exceptionally fine condition, and a number of images have been borrowed from private collections for the purposes of this exhibition.

Lake in Conejos Canon, Colorado, from Wheeler Survey, ca. 1871-72
albumen print, 8 x 10-5/8 inches (image) 16 x 20 inches (mount)

O’Sullivan learned to photograph at the gallery of Mathew Brady, and the in the branch managed by Alexander Gardner in Washington. His major contribution to the history of photography, however, began with the images he made during the Civil War, in 1862-1865. From 1867-1869 O’Sullivan was official photographer to the King Survey, officially known as the Geological Exploration of the 40th Parallel. In 1870 he was appointed Photographer to the Darien Survey, with the purpose of determining possible canal routes through the Isthmus of Panama. O’Sullivan’s last and most mature group of images were made during his years with the Wheeler Expedition, surveying the One-Hundredth Meridian (1871, 1873-1874). He died in 1882 in Staten Island, of tuberculosis, at the age of forty-two.

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