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Mount Shasta as a Visual Resource

East Coast Artists:
1870s-1920s

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Several of the artists who sketched at Mount Shasta were in California for only a brief time. Some of them, like Samuel Colman and John Henry Hill, had studios on the East Coast and they made an occasional trip to the West.

Indeed, Mount Shasta was on the route between San Francisco and Portland, and those who came west often made the north and south trip as well. To some degree, the location of Mount Shasta on the north-south route accounts for the large number of 19th century artists who painted views of the mountain. However, many of the better landscape artists were of a hardy breed, and traveled to major landmarks even when it was difficult to do so.

Samuel Colman (1832-1920)

Photograph of Samuel Colman from White Mountain Art Samuel Colman was a Hudson River School painter who went West for travel and inspiration starting about 1870. That was the year after the completion of the transcontinental railroad; his pictures are credited with helping to make the public more aware of the new accessibility of the West. A tireless traveler in search of nature's beauty, his panoramic sketches, watercolors, and oils are full of atmospheric gradations and details of the landscape. It was especially his conveyance of the often stark and beautiful aridity of the landscape that made his work stand out among his peers. There is one small oil painting of Mount Shasta attributed to him.168

John Henry Hill (1839-1922)

Mount Shasta Over Pond, 1868 by John Henry Hill
Mount Shasta Over Pond, 1868 by John Henry Hill.
Watercolor, 11 1/2" by 17 5/8".
From: Richard York Gallery. New York: Richard York Gallery, 1996. California: One Hundred Forty Years of Art Produced in the State. November 21, 1996 - Jan. 10, 1997 (Exhibition Catalog).
Courtesy Richard York Gallery.

John Henry Hill, a well-known East Coast watercolorist and still life painter, traveled through Nevada, Utah, and northern California. His sketches and those of his father, John William Hill, have in recent years become regarded as being some of the best drawings in American art. There are at least two drawings of Mount Shasta, from the late 1860s, by John Henry Hill.169

The Shaste Butte and Valley by John Henry Hill
Mount Shasta by John Henry Hill.
Courtesy New York Historical Society.

Henry Arthur Elkins (1847-1884)

Henry Arthur Elkins' gigantic painting of Mount Shasta won first prize of the 1873 International Art Exposition in Vienna, Austria.
170 Elkins was a Vermont-born artist who had spent but little time in California. The Mount Shasta painting was his first attempt to paint on such a large scale and his success must have encouraged him greatly. He created many large paintings of Rocky Mountain scenes and became known primarily as a painter of those regions. Unfortunately the painting of Mount Shasta was destroyed in a Chicago fire at the turn of the century.

Arthur Bowen Davies (1862-1928)

A. B. Davies is almost always mentioned in books on American art as having been the organizer of the famous "Armory Show" of 1913 in New York City. That show showed modern European art to Americans for the first time. The viewing of cubism, futurism and radical techniques forever changed the way New World artists approached their task. Davies was a painter himself, and was a main member of the influential artists group formed in 1907 and known informally as the "Ashcan School" and more formally known as "The Eight." The members were Arthur B. Davies, Maurice Prendergast, Ernest Lawson, Robert Henri, George Luks, William J. Glackens, John Sloan and Everett Shinn.

This group of artists took for their subject matter the life and life force of the city and its inhabitants. The "Ashcan" is a metaphor for this absorbtion in and empowerment of objects and people that had been overlooked in traditional academic art. When Davies came to California he traveled widely, and in at least one instance, around 1908 he painted an unusual view of just Shastina and the meadows below (this view, quite ordinary, was perhaps a conscious attempt, in keeping with his views on the philosophy of art, to not paint a more traditional view of the mountain). There are records of other Davies' Mount Shasta paintings but reproductions have not yet been located.


[168] Hislop. p.52.

[169] Ca. and Western Art Research records.

[170] Trenton and Hassrick. p. 150.

 

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