Return to Mount Shasta as a Visual Resource page - Clarence King lies in the foreground smoking his pipe. Munger is at work on a Shasta painting. Frederick Clark checks out his transit. Watkins' studio wagon with camera perched on top is at the left behind the fence

Mount Shasta as a Visual Resource


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The research which went into the making of this book began with a simple question: What was the earliest picture of Mount Shasta? It might seem like a simple question, but one not so readily answered. With the help of some good libraries, it became apparent that the earliest views of the mountain might well have been done by the early explorers of the region. Since the earliest explorers of the region came before the advent of photography, there was no doubt that the first pictures of Mount Shasta must have been made by artists.

But along the way in looking for the elusive earliest picture, one could not help but be astounded at the number of 19th and early 20th century paintings, drawings, watercolors, woodblock prints, steel engravings, lithographs, and so on, of Mount Shasta. Hundreds of them, and often they were done by some of the best known Western landscape artists of the 19th century, such as Albert Bierstadt, Thomas Moran, William Keith, and Thomas Hill. These Shasta pictures came in all shapes and sizes, from two inch wide engravings to ten foot wide paintings. Why were there so many pictures of Mount Shasta?

It turned out that there was no simple answer to this last question, because each decade, from 1840 to 1940, brought with it new reasons for artists to come to Mount Shasta. Scientific From:  This is California.  Sacramento:  News Publishing Company, 1928 (December).  Courtesy Montagne Collection - a two peaked snow covered mountain reflecting in a lake with the words This Is California above it artists, spy artists, journalist artists, survey artists, Indian artists, visionary artists, book artists, mountain climbing artists, cartoon artists, portrait artists, landscape artists. Artists, artists, artists. By the time the compiling of this research was done there was a list of over 120 noted artists who had painted or drawn at Mount Shasta. Though no one really keeps score, it must be that after Yosemite Valley, Mount Shasta had been the second most painted place in California.1 In any event, the history of the art and artists of Mount Shasta became a long and multifaceted story.

This book is going to be a straightforward attempt to chronicle the highlights of this art history of the Mount Shasta region. Lest anyone be fearful of the words 'art history' for signifying something either medieval or even worse, 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 there is the possibility of losing sight of the mountain itself. It was an important place, and still is, though it is missing much of its once grand scenic forests. Mount Shasta was known as the 19th century's "Keystone of California Scenery"2 and as the early 20th century's "California's Fuji-San"3; hopefully its former reputation as a place of great beauty and peace will continue on to future generations.

[1] Yosemite was by far the most painted place in California. The National Park Service alone has over 700 19th and 20th century art works of Yosemite scenes in its Yosemite Collection.

[2] Johnstone, E.McD. His book  'Shasta: The Keystone of California Scenery' has a note as to the choice of title : "The above title is suggested by the fact that the Sierras bounding the Eastern portion of the State, and the Coast Range the Western, meet at Shasta, forming a Grand Mountain Arch, of which the Great White Butte is the Keystone."

[3] James, George Wharton  p.3.  As editor of Out West magazine, in 1914,  Wharton labeled Mount Shasta, as "Mount Shasta: California's Fuji-San". Article reprinted as a pamphlet shortly afterward.


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