An Evening Discussing Carleton Watkins

Carleton Watkins: Making the West American

Thursday, November 1, 2018 6:00PM

<p>An Evening Discussing Carleton Watkins</p>
<p><em>Carleton Watkins: Making the West American</em></p>
Tickets are now Sold Out

Where: California Historical Society Headquarters, 678 Mission Street, San Francisco, CA 94105

Cost: $10 General Admission, Free for CHS Members, plus one guest per membership.

Join the California Historical Society, University of California Press, and author Tyler Green for a stirring conversation surrounding one of California's most significant artists and early photographers, Carleton Watkins. In conjunction with our new photography exhibition, Boomtowns: How Photography Shaped Los Angeles and San Francisco, Tyler Green will speak about his new book, Carleton Watkins: Making the West American. This presentation of Watkins's work in San Francisco and the Los Angeles area, especially his too-little-considered architectural photography, will be followed by comments and questions from CHS Managing Curator Erin Garcia, and will transition into an audience Q&A, book signing, and reception.

About our Speakers

Tyler Green is an historian and an award-winning critic who has produced and hosted The Modern Art Notes Podcast since 2011. Green is also the author of the forthcoming “Carleton Watkins: Making the West American,” which will be published by University of California Press in October.

The U.S. chapter of the International Association of Art Critics (AICA-USA) awarded Green one of its two inaugural awards for art criticism for his website Modern Art Notes in 2014. The award included a citation for The MAN Podcast. (The other inaugural award was given to New York Times critic Holland Cotter.) Between 2001 and 2014, MAN featured original reporting, art criticism, and analysis. Newspapers such as the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times and the Wall Street Journal all credited MAN with breaking stories that they later covered. The Wall Street Journal called Modern Art Notes “the most influential of all visual arts blogs,” and said, “You won’t find a better-informed art writer than Tyler Green.”

Green has written for numerous print and digital magazines, including New York Times Lens, Fortune, Conde Nast Portfolio, and Smithsonian. He has contributed op-eds to newspapers such as the Los Angeles Times, the Boston Globe, the Philadelphia Inquirer and the Wall Street Journal. His commentary has also aired on National Public Radio’s “All Things Considered.” From 2010-2014 he was the columnist for Modern Painters magazine.

Books featuring Green’s work include San Francisco Museum of Modern Art 360: Views on the Collection, a forthcoming, Steidl-published David Maisel monograph, and an Anne Appleby exhibition catalogue that will be published by the Tacoma (Wash.) Art Museum in 2018.

Erin Garcia is a photography historian and serves as Managing Curator of Exhibitions at the California Historical Society in San Francisco. She holds degrees in Art History from the University of California, Berkeley, and the University of New Mexico, Albuquerque. She has worked in the photography departments of the Oakland Museum of California, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles. During her time at the Getty, she published three books about the museum’s collections. Throughout her career, she has organized numerous exhibitions about photography. Most recently she was the curator of City Rising: San Francisco and the 1915 World’s Fair (2015, California Historical Society) and the concurrent exhibitions Sensationalist Portrayals of the Modoc War, 1872–73 and Native Portraits: Contemporary Tintypes by Ed Drew (2016, California Historical Society).

About the Book

Carleton Watkins (1829–1916) is widely considered the greatest American photographer of the nineteenth century and arguably the most influential artist of his era. He is best known for his pictures of Yosemite Valley and the nearby Mariposa Grove of giant sequoias.

Watkins made his first trip to Yosemite Valley and Mariposa Grove in 1861 just as the Civil War was beginning. His photographs of Yosemite were exhibited in New York for the first time in 1862, as news of the Union’s disastrous defeat at Fredericksburg was landing in newspapers and while the Matthew Brady Studio’s horrific photographs of Antietam were on view. Watkins’s work tied the West to Northern cultural traditions and played a key role in pledging the once-wavering West to Union.

Motivated by Watkins’s pictures, Congress would pass legislation, later signed by Abraham Lincoln, that preserved Yosemite as the prototypical “national park,” the first such act of landscape preservation in the world. Carleton Watkins: Making the West American includes the first history of the birth of the national park concept since pioneering environmental historian Hans Huth’s landmark 1948 “Yosemite: The Story of an Idea.”

Watkins’s photographs helped shape America’s idea of the West, and helped make the West a full participant in the nation. His pictures of California, Oregon, and Nevada, as well as modern-day Washington, Utah, and Arizona, not only introduced entire landscapes to America but were important to the development of American business, finance, agriculture, government policy, and science. Watkins’s clients, customers, and friends were a veritable “who’s who” of America’s Gilded Age, and his connections with notable figures such as Collis P. Huntington, John and Jessie Benton Frémont, Eadweard Muybridge, Frederick Billings, John Muir, Albert Bierstadt, and Asa Gray reveal how the Gilded Age helped make today’s America.