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Mount Shasta as a Visual Resource

Pacific Northwest Artists: 1870s-1890s

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The artists William Parrott and Cleveland Rockwell made their homes in the Pacific Northwest, and traveled down the interior route while on a business or vacation trip.

Cleveland Rockwell (1837-1907)

Photograph of Cleveland Rockwell from NOAA The most remarkable artist of the Pacific Northwest during the late 1800s undoubtedly was Cleveland Rockwell. He was a professional surveyor for the U.S. Coast Survey for 35 years. His main responsibility was to make the maps and charts of the Columbia River topography. He also worked on other major projects throughout California. Highly trained and thoroughly professional as a mapmaker, he painted for pleasure all his life, producing about 500 oils, watercolors, and drawings.171 Captain Rockwell occasionally sold paintings and also contributed illustrations to various magazines. His art work is today highly valued by collectors.

A letter written by Rockwell tells that in June of 1873 he went from San Francisco to the Columbia River via stagecoach, stopping and resting at Sisson's in Mount Shasta's Strawberry Valley. It was the year of his marriage and according to his biographer, Rockwell was on his honeymoon trip. He was thirty-six, though his wife, the daughter of a state senator, was but fourteen years old.

Mount Shasta by Cleveland Rockwell courtesy of Butterfield and Butterfield.
Mount Shasta by Cleveland Rockwell.
Courtesy Butterfields (auction catalog).

Rockwell's letter, written to the Chief of the Coast Survey, mentions Mount Shasta - "Since my return from Point Sur, Asst. Rogers has related to me his experiences of a trip to the summit of Mount Shasta, with a view of making it a Coast Survey Station. From his account of the interest which you take in the Matter, I send you a painting of the mountain, which I beg you to accept as a token of respect & esteem. The painting is a very faithful view from 'Strawberry Valley' from sketches which I made in June 1873, while resting at Sisson's on my journey to the Columbia River."172 Eventually Asst. Rodgers arranged to have a reflective tower placed on the summit of Mount Shasta.

Rockwell created at least two other paintings of Mount Shasta, one of which was used as a double page fold-out illustration to accompany an article which he wrote for the Jan. 24, 1891 issue of the West Shore, a Portland periodical. The article was a description of the mountain; its topography, its climate, the hotels around its base and the derivation of the name Shasta.173

William Samuel Parrott (1844-1916)

William Samuel Parrott was a well known Portland artist and art teacher active before the turn of the century.174 His paintings were mostly of the Washington and Oregon Cascade mountains, though he did at least two views of Mount Shasta. It is not known in what year he painted his Mount Shasta views. The small size and the fact that his Mount Shasta paintings are executed on pieces of inexpensive artist's board indicate that he painted for the tourist trade.

His work is respected today for its fineness of detail and for the unique pink and grey toned skies which were his trademark. It appears that his wife was also a painter; a lithographed print of Mount Rainier and signed by Mrs. Parrott is very similar in color and detail to many of her husband's paintings.

Mount Shasta by W.S. Parrott. Courtesy Turtle Bay Exploration Park, Redding, California.
Mount Shasta by W.S. Parrott.
Courtesy Turtle Bay Exploration Park, Redding, California.

Mr. Parrott died in 1915, but one of his students, Eliza Barchus, who became known as the 'Woman Who Made Oregon Famous', carried on his tradition by painting in a nearly identical style to that of her teacher.

[171] Stenzel. p. 79.

[172] Ibid. p. 76-77.

[173] Ibid. p.152.

[174] Bohn. p. 19.


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