Carleton Watkins: The Stanford Albums

On view April 23 – August 17, 2014


Carleton Watkins (U.S.A., 1829–1916), revered as one of the greatest landscape photographers of the 19th century, is perhaps best known for his mammoth prints from glass plate negatives of California’s legendary Yosemite Valley. Unprecedented in their size and detail, these photographs were instrumental in convincing the 38th U.S. Congress and President Abraham Lincoln to pass the Yosemite Act of 1864, the first official step toward preserving the Sierra Nevada valley for public use and a blueprint for America’s National Park System.

To commemorate the 150th Anniversary of the Yosemite Act, the Cantor is mounting a major exhibition of Watkins’s photographic album of Yosemite Valley and two other large albums: photographs of the Pacific Coast and of the Columbia River and Oregon. The photographs, preserved in pristine condition in Stanford Library’s Special Collections and Archives, represent one of the most definitive collections anywhere of Watkins's highest achievements between 1861 and 1872, the complete range of his first and most astonishing creative streak. This exhibition presents a remarkable vision of America’s Pacific Coast in the era of its great expansion, captured with calm even during the menace of the nation’s Civil War.

A printed catalogue accompanying the exhibition will feature for the first time all of the images from the three complete albums and will present essays by scholars in diverse fields affiliated with Stanford.

On view in the Cantor Arts Center’s Pigott Family Gallery
Curators: Elizabeth Kathleen Mitchell with George Philip LeBourdais as Co-Curator

Read the full press release.

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Visitor Information
Admission to the Cantor Arts Center is free. Docents offer free tours of the exhibition Thursdays at 12:15 pm plus Saturdays and Sundays at 2 pm throughout the run of the exhibition. The Cantor is open Wednesday through Sunday, 11 a.m.–5 p.m., Thursday until 8 p.m. and is located on the Stanford campus, off Palm Drive at Museum Way. Parking is free on weekends and after 4 p.m. weekdays. For more information about the Cantor Arts Center, call 650-723-4177.

Notes to Editors
• To arrange for interviews and for further information, including an exhibition catalogue, contact Anna Koster, Head of Communications, Cantor Arts Center, 650-725-4657,
• For high-resolution publicity images, contact PR Assistant Manager Margaret Whitehorn, Cantor Arts Center, 650-724-3600,

About the Cantor Arts Center
The Cantor Arts Center, Stanford University’s only museum, is a vital and dynamic institution with a venerable history. Founded in 1891 with the university, the historic museum was expanded and renamed in 1999 for lead donors Iris and B. Gerald Cantor. The museum’s encyclopedic collection spans 5,000 years, includes 32,000 artworks and beckons visitors to travel around the world and through time: from Africa to the Americas to Asia, from classical to contemporary. With 24 galleries presenting selections from the collection and more than 20 special exhibitions each year, the Cantor serves Stanford’s academic community, draws art lovers from the San Francisco Bay Area and beyond and attracts campus visitors from around the world. Free admission, free tours, lectures, family activities, plus changing exhibitions make the Cantor one of the most well-attended university art museums in the country and a great resource for teaching and research on campus.

Read the full press release.


Carleton E. Watkins (U.S.A., 1829–1916), Washington Column 2082 ft., Yosemite, 1865–66, from the album Photographs of the Yosemite Valley. Albumen print. Cantor Arts Center at Stanford University, Lent by Department of Special Collections, Stanford University Libraries.

Carleton Watkins (U.S.A., 1829–1916), Cathedral Rocks, 2630 ft., Yosemite, 1865–1866, from the album Photographs of the Yosemite Valley. Albumen print. Cantor Arts Center at Stanford University, Lent by Department of Special Collections, Stanford University Libraries.

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