Carleton Watkins: The Art of Perception

Foreword by David A. Ross; essays by Maria Morris Hambourg and Douglas R. Nickel; additional texts by Peter E. Palmquist

228 pages, 10 ½ x 11 ½ inches, hardcover

Published in 1999

Carleton Watkins (1829–1916) is considered by many to be the greatest American photographer of the nineteenth century. During his career of some fifty years, Watkins traveled the western United States, making thousands of remarkable, historically important images. From breathtaking pictures of Yosemite, the Pacific Coast, and the scenery along the Columbia River to photographs of the vast mining tracts of the Sierra Nevada and the towns springing up along the recently built Central and Southern Pacific railroads, these images provide an unparalleled visual record of the West.

Watkins’s artistic vision was both refined and evocative; he described the latent riches of the West with a pictorial vocabulary surprisingly akin to that of his contemporaries Edgar Degas and Paul Cézanne. Carleton Watkins: The Art of Perception examines the signal achievement of this photographic innovator in the context of burgeoning western development and new ways of experiencing the world visually.

This companion volume to a major traveling exhibition is the most beautiful book on Carleton Watkins’s work ever published. Produced using state-of-the-art tritone printing, it showcases over one hundred of the photographer’s best images, including several of Watkins’s extraordinary multipart panoramic works. The photographs, many of which have never been exhibited or reproduced before, are accompanied by essays that are informed by substantial original research into Watkins’s life and ambitions.


Published on the occasion of the exhibition Carleton Watkins: The Art of Perception, held at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (May 28–September 7, 1999), The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (October 11, 1999–January 9, 2000), and National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC (February 6–April 30, 2000); hardcover published by Harry N. Abrams, Inc.

ISBN 9780810941021 (hardcover)