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The Art Of Mount Shasta
January 16 - May 2, 2010
This "Art of Mount Shasta" exhibition and the accompanying book, "Sudden and Solitary: The Artistic Legacy of Mount Shasta 1841-2008," began many years ago as a research project to determine what was the earliest known picture of Mount Shasta. What was the first picture, and who made it, and when?
To make a long story short, the earliest known fine art image of Mount Shasta was made in 1841 by Alfred Agate, one of several artists of the little-known but hugely important four-year around-the-world "U.S. Exploring Expedition" of 1838-1842. Captain Charles Wilkes led the six ships, 600 men, and nine scientists and artists. Not only were the scientists and artists of that expedition the first to sketch Mount Shasta, but they as well discovered that the Antarctic was a continent and their worldwide collections became the foundational holdings of the Smithsonian Institution. A side trip was sent overland from the Columbia River southward over the Siskiyou summit to Mount Shasta and on into the Sacramento Valley, which explains how the Navy got to Mount Shasta in 1841. Turtle Bay Exploration Park is proud to display in this exhibition Alfred Agate's original watercolor "Shasty Peak" from 1841, kindly lent by the Navy Art Collection, Naval Historical Center, Washington, DC.
Aside from the issue of who first created images of Mount Shasta, there was the realization that hundreds of later artists had painted Mount Shasta. And often the resulting paintings, watercolors, and engravings turned out to have been done by some of the best-known American landscape artists of the 19th century. These Shasta pictures came in all shapes and sizes, from small engravings to ten-foot wide paintings. The question then became: Why are there so many 19th century pictures of Mount Shasta?
It turned out that there was a phenomenon known popularly as the "San Francisco Art Boom," roughly from 1860 to 1890. As the artist William Keith said in 1895:
Most of the works in this exhibition, lent by museums, institutions, and private collections from around the country, stem from that San Francisco Art Boom. And these paintings are only the tip of the iceberg relative to the large number of Mount Shasta paintings in museums and private collections around the country. The current exhibition is representative of the extensive art history of the Mount Shasta region. Lest anyone be fearful of the words 'art history' for signifying something arcane or boring, it can be said that the artists themselves were pretty interesting people. They worked hard, put up with primitive conditions for long periods of time, and generally were a cultured and non-conformist lot. Many of them, including most of the earliest ones, came to the U.S. as immigrants and to California as opportunists.
In this study of the art and artists of Mount Shasta there is the possibility of losing sight of the mountain itself. It was an important place and is still an icon of California. Mount Shasta was known as the 19th century's "Keystone of California Scenery" and as the early 20th century's "California's Fuji-San;" hopefully the mountain's reputation as a place of great inspiration and beauty will continue on to future generations.
- William Miesse and Robyn G. Peterson, Ph.D, co-curators
To view wall panel text from the exhibition please click here
To view art object labels from the exhibition please click here
To view images of art objects from the exhibition please click here
Editor's note: Resource Library readers may also enjoy further study of:
and this book:
For biographical information on certain artists referenced in this article please see America's Distinguished Artists, a national registry of historic artists
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