Citation

Creating a National Wilderness: Landscape Artists, Visual Rhetoric, and the Cultural Production of Knowledge in the Yosemite Valley, 1860s-1870s

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Abstract:

Representations of Yosemite as the sublime, picturesque wilderness became cemented in the American cultural consciousness in the 1860s and 1870s by landscape artists. These nineteenth century painters and photographers relied on artistic, cultural, and technological trends to interpret and place value on American landscapes. These individuals, in particular, portrayed Yosemite Valley in Central California as absent of man—as an orderly, picturesque, and primeval wilderness. Only a decade earlier, however, the first Anglo Yosemite tourists and artists purposefully highlighted humanity in the region, representing the built environment, tourism, and technology in their accounts. This earlier cultural material demonstrates that Yosemite—from its outset as an Anglo-American cultural landscape—was intrinsically tied to humanity and modernity. The fact that professional landscape artists changed the representation and knowledge of Yosemite in the 1860s and 1870s is significant, for they produced images at the same time the area became federally designated as the first state park. More importantly, the nineteenth century artists’ visual interpretation of landscapes persisted throughout the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, not only in Yosemite but other national parks as well. This romantic, pristine wilderness ideal runs contrary to the national park experience, however, which increasingly reflected a global world of mass modernism, consumerism, and tourism. This striking dichotomy between the visual rhetoric and physical reality created issues throughout history in public land policy, as well as park ecology and management. This paper looks at both visual and written primary sources, as well as incorporates transnational park studies and art history methodologies to reevaluate traditional environmental history narratives of both national parks and wilderness. By studying epistemology and art, in addition to history, scholars can provide a more comprehensive picture of national parks that will help to ensure that these areas remain accessible for centuries to come.
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Association:
Name: ASEH Annual Conference
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http://aseh.net


Citation:
URL: http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p1171146_index.html
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MLA Citation:

Vicknair, Alexandra. "Creating a National Wilderness: Landscape Artists, Visual Rhetoric, and the Cultural Production of Knowledge in the Yosemite Valley, 1860s-1870s" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the ASEH Annual Conference, Drake Hotel, Chicago, IL, <Not Available>. 2018-01-10 <http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p1171146_index.html>

APA Citation:

Vicknair, A. K. "Creating a National Wilderness: Landscape Artists, Visual Rhetoric, and the Cultural Production of Knowledge in the Yosemite Valley, 1860s-1870s" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the ASEH Annual Conference, Drake Hotel, Chicago, IL <Not Available>. 2018-01-10 from http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p1171146_index.html

Publication Type: Panel Paper
Abstract: Representations of Yosemite as the sublime, picturesque wilderness became cemented in the American cultural consciousness in the 1860s and 1870s by landscape artists. These nineteenth century painters and photographers relied on artistic, cultural, and technological trends to interpret and place value on American landscapes. These individuals, in particular, portrayed Yosemite Valley in Central California as absent of man—as an orderly, picturesque, and primeval wilderness. Only a decade earlier, however, the first Anglo Yosemite tourists and artists purposefully highlighted humanity in the region, representing the built environment, tourism, and technology in their accounts. This earlier cultural material demonstrates that Yosemite—from its outset as an Anglo-American cultural landscape—was intrinsically tied to humanity and modernity. The fact that professional landscape artists changed the representation and knowledge of Yosemite in the 1860s and 1870s is significant, for they produced images at the same time the area became federally designated as the first state park. More importantly, the nineteenth century artists’ visual interpretation of landscapes persisted throughout the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, not only in Yosemite but other national parks as well. This romantic, pristine wilderness ideal runs contrary to the national park experience, however, which increasingly reflected a global world of mass modernism, consumerism, and tourism. This striking dichotomy between the visual rhetoric and physical reality created issues throughout history in public land policy, as well as park ecology and management. This paper looks at both visual and written primary sources, as well as incorporates transnational park studies and art history methodologies to reevaluate traditional environmental history narratives of both national parks and wilderness. By studying epistemology and art, in addition to history, scholars can provide a more comprehensive picture of national parks that will help to ensure that these areas remain accessible for centuries to come.


 
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