Cape Horn, Columbia River, Oregon

Carleton E. Watkins (American, 1829–1916)

Albumen silver print from glass negative
Image: 52.1 x 39 cm (20 1/2 x 15 3/8 in.) Frame: 76.2 x 63.5 cm (30 x 25 in.)
Credit Line:
Gilman Collection, Gift of The Howard Gilman Foundation, 2005
Accession Number:
  • Description

    Watkins, the consummate photographer of the American West, combined a virtuoso mastery of the difficult wet plate negative process with a rigorous sense of pictorial structure. For large-format landscape work such as Watkins produced along the Columbia River in Oregon, the physical demands were great. Since there was as yet no practical means of enlarging, Watkins's glass negatives had to be as large as he wished the prints to be, and his camera large enough to accommodate them. Furthermore, the glass negatives had to be coated, exposed, and developed while the collodion remained tacky, requiring the photographer to transport a traveling darkroom as he explored the rugged virgin terrain of the American West. The crystalline clarity of Watkins's remarkable "mammoth" prints is unmatched in the work of any of his contemporaries and is approached by few artists working today.

  • Provenance

    National Park Service at Yosemite Collection; [Helios Arts, Inc., New York]; Gilman Paper Company Collection, New York, August 4, 1977