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The Vernal Fall, 336 feet, Yosemite Valley, California [Cal.]

Improved rail and stagecoach transportation into Yosemite Valley in the 1870s led to an increasing number of artists and tourists. Photographers such as Watkins (whose negatives Taber later printed) began specializing in views of the area. The predominant taste was for images of unpopulated, “virgin” wilderness: a kind of Americanized Garden of Eden. Recognized for their beauty and artistry, Watkins’ photographs of Yosemite raised public awareness of its natural wonders, leading to President Lincoln’s signing of an 1864 Act of Congress preserving the area, which in 1890 became a national park. The ethereal, glowing waterfall seen in this work (the result of the long exposure times required by early photography) only serves to reiterate the sense of a mystical or divine presence in nature.

Sidney and Lois Eskenazi Museum of Art’s collection includes another view of Yosemite Valley by Watkins/Taber, Domes and Royal Arches from Merced River, Yosemite Valley (Eskenazi Museum of Art 75.45.4).

Carleton E. Watkins
American, 1829–1916
I. W. Taber
American, 1830–1912
The Vernal Fall, 336 feet, Yosemite Valley, California [Cal.]
1887
Albumen printImage: 9 3/8 x 7 5/8 in. (23.8 x 19.4 cm); sheet: 9 5/8 x 7 5/8 in. (24.4 x 19.4 cm); mount: 11 x 8 5/8 in. (27.9 x 21.9 cm)
Sidney and Lois Eskenazi Museum of Art, 75.45.3