Editor's note: The Turtle Bay Museum at the Turtle Bay Exploration Park and William Miesse provided source material to Resource Library for the following article or essay. If you have questions or comments regarding the source material, please contact the Turtle Bay Museum directly through either this phone number or web address:


The Art Of Mount Shasta

January 16 - May 2, 2010


This "Art of Mount Shasta" exhibition and the accompanying book, "Sudden and Solitary: The Artistic Legacy of Mount Shasta 1841-2008," began many years ago as a research project to determine what was the earliest known picture of Mount Shasta. What was the first picture, and who made it, and when?

To make a long story short, the earliest known fine art image of Mount Shasta was made in 1841 by Alfred Agate, one of several artists of the little-known but hugely important four-year around-the-world "U.S. Exploring Expedition" of 1838-1842. Captain Charles Wilkes led the six ships, 600 men, and nine scientists and artists. Not only were the scientists and artists of that expedition the first to sketch Mount Shasta, but they as well discovered that the Antarctic was a continent and their worldwide collections became the foundational holdings of the Smithsonian Institution. A side trip was sent overland from the Columbia River southward over the Siskiyou summit to Mount Shasta and on into the Sacramento Valley, which explains how the Navy got to Mount Shasta in 1841. Turtle Bay Exploration Park is proud to display in this exhibition Alfred Agate's original watercolor "Shasty Peak" from 1841, kindly lent by the Navy Art Collection, Naval Historical Center, Washington, DC.

Aside from the issue of who first created images of Mount Shasta, there was the realization that hundreds of later artists had painted Mount Shasta. And often the resulting  paintings, watercolors, and engravings turned out to have been done by some of the best-known American landscape artists of the 19th century. These Shasta pictures came in all shapes and sizes, from small engravings to ten-foot wide paintings. The question then became: Why are there so many 19th century pictures of Mount Shasta?

It turned out that there was a phenomenon known popularly as the "San Francisco Art Boom," roughly from 1860 to 1890. As the artist William Keith said in 1895:

"An art wave swept over California. ....I like to dwell upon those days, because S.F. artists found home appreciation then, and, what is better, a home market. The wealthy people of California bought pictures painted by California artists. The country was young then and men could see the poetry and romance and the art that lay at their own doors..."

Most of the works in this exhibition, lent by museums, institutions, and private collections from around the country, stem from that San Francisco Art Boom. And these paintings are only the tip of the iceberg relative to the large number of Mount Shasta paintings in museums and private collections around the country. The current exhibition is representative of the extensive art history of the Mount Shasta region. Lest anyone be fearful of the words 'art history' for signifying something arcane or 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 of Mount Shasta there is the possibility of losing sight of the mountain itself. It was an important place and is still an icon of California. Mount Shasta was known as the 19th century's "Keystone of California Scenery" and as the early 20th century's "California's Fuji-San;" hopefully the mountain's reputation as a place of great inspiration and beauty will continue on to future generations.   

- William Miesse and Robyn G. Peterson, Ph.D, co-curators


To view wall panel text from the exhibition please click here

To view art object labels from the exhibition please click here

To view images of art objects from the exhibition please click here


Editor's note: Resource Library readers may also enjoy further study of:

and this book:


Resource Library features these essays concerning Northern California art:

Jennie V. Cannon: The Untold History of the Carmel and Berkeley Art Colonies, vol. one, East Bay Heritage Project, Oakland, 2012

Landscape Painters of Northern California 1870-1930 by Harvey L. Jones

The Carmel Monterey Peninsula Art Colony: A History by Barbara J. Klein

The San Francisco Art Association by Betty Hoag McGlynn

The Santa Cruz Art League by Betty Hoag McGlynn

The Carmel Art Association by Betty Hoag McGlynn

Monterey: The Artist's View, 1925 - 1945 by Kent Seavey

The Society of Six by Terry St. John

Towards Impressionism in Northern California by Raymond L. Wilson

and these articles:

Artists at Continent's End: The Monterey Peninsula Art Colony, 1875-1907 is a 2006 exhibit organized by the Crocker Art Museum, including some 70 paintings, photographs and works on paper drawn from museums and private collections throughout California and beyond. It features work by eight artists of major importance to California's, and America's, art history -- Jules Tavernier, William Keith, Charles Rollo Peters, Arthur Mathews, Evelyn McCormick, Francis McComas, Gottardo Piazzoni and photographer Arnold Genthe. The exhibition also includes the work of more than 25 other artists, both well- and little-known, who each contributed to the reputation of what is now widely recognized as one of America's most important art colonies.

The Art Of Mount Shasta is a 2010 Turtle Bay Museum at the Turtle Bay Exploration Park exhibit for which William Miesse and Robyn G. Peterson, Ph.D, co-curators, say; "Most of the works in this exhibition, lent by museums, institutions, and private collections from around the country, stem from that San Francisco Art Boom. And these paintings are only the tip of the iceberg relative to the large number of Mount Shasta paintings in museums and private collections around the country. The current exhibition is representative of the extensive art history of the Mount Shasta region."

The Lighter Side of Bay Area Figuration is a 2000 Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art exhibit which contains 56 humorous, whimsical and satirical works of art by San Francisco Bay artists such as Wayne Thiebaud, Robert Arneson, Roy De Forest, Richard Diebenkorn, and Viola Frey. Comic art in the Bay area began to flourish during the late 1950s in deliberate defiance of New York's avant-garde. San Francisco's distance from the center of commerce and criticism fostered a renegade mentality and a tendency toward personal forms of expression. Bucking mainstream trends by combining humor with lowbrow artistic media and techniques became a badge of honor for many Bay Area artists. The hub of humorous figurative art was the University of California in Davis, a sleepy and relatively remote campus town 70 miles north of San Francisco. Although their aesthetics differed, most of the Davis artists explored humorous narratives, whether in clay sculpture or representational painting. The UC-Davis art department included artists Arneson, De Forest, Thiebaud, Manuel Neri, and William Wiley. There, Thiebaud painted his whimsical still lifes of ordinary objects from gumball machines and yo-yos to pies and cakes, like the exhibition's painting Cakes and Pies, 1994-95. Roy De Forest painted his canvases filled with wild-eyed, pointy eared dogs, and printmaker William Wiley produced his quirky alter ego, "Mr. Unatural." (right: Joan Brown, Portrait of Bob for Bingo, 1960, oil paint oncanvas, 29 x 28 inches, Collection of Joyce and Jay Cooper, AZ, Photo, Jay Cooper)

The Lighter Side of Bay Area Figuration is a 2000 exhibit at the San Jose Museum of Art, a compelling exhibition of approximately 70 works that deftly examines the historical, social, cultural, and aesthetic development of humorous Bay Area art. The exhibition -- the first to identify and examine this genre -- highlights the work of artists associated with the University of California at Davis, such as Robert Arneson, Roy De Forest, and Wayne Thiebaud, and with artists associated with the East Bay, such as Robert Colescott, Joan Brown, M. Louise Stanley, and James Albertson.

Made in California: Art, Image, and Identity, 1900-2000 / Section 1: 1900 - 1920 / Section 2: 1920 - 1940 / Section 3: 1940 - 1960 / Section 4: 1960 - 1980 / Section 5: 1980 - 2000 is a 2000 multi-part exhibit at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. The exhibition goes beyond a standard presentation of California art to offer a revisionist view of the state and its cultural legacy. It considers both "booster" images of California and other coexisting and at times competing images, reflecting the wide range of interests and experiences of the state's diverse constituencies. The exhibit approaches the past 100 years thematically, presenting works that engage in a meaningful way with the California image. As opposed to a survey exhibition, Made in California moves beyond the established canon of artists and art works to include lesser-known works by celebrated figures as well as a wider range of artists, more in keeping with the diversity of California's population. It is the shared conviction of the exhibition organizers that this approach, intended to initiate a broader dialogue on California art rather than establish a new canon.

Made in Monterey a 2009 exhibition at the Monterey Museum of Art, is a sweeping exhibition of the most beloved and important works from the permanent collection created by artists in Monterey or by those inspired by the region. Beginning with the pioneering artists who sojourned on the Central Coast in the late 19th century (including Jules Tavernier and Raymond Dabb Yelland), the exhibition features significant works of Monterey modernists such as Armin Hansen and Margaret Bruton as well as photography visionaries Edward Weston and Ansel Adams. Two renowned works by Armin Hansen, Nino and Men of the Sea, have been conserved and make their stunning debut in this new presentation.

Majestic California: Prominent Artists of the Early 1900's is a 2007 exhibition at The Irvine Museum. At one time, California was considered a distant Eden, isolated within its own beauty. From snow-capped peaks of the Sierra Nevada Mountains to the desolate splendor of the Mojave Desert; from flower-covered hills to countless secluded valleys and meadows; from the dazzling beaches of the south to the rocky coves of the north, it was a world of its own. The enthralling beauty of California is the principal reason that, starting in the middle of the 19th century, artists began to take the long, hazardous journey to paint its unique splendor. By the early 1900's, California had its own group of prominent artists who proclaimed that beauty throughout the country.

Moods of California, a 2007 exhibition at The Irvine Museum, portrays California as experienced by three differing yet equally passionate artistic points of view. Percy Gray (1869-1952), a superb watercolorist who was fascinated by the soft, gentle light and haze of northern California; Paul Grimm (1887-1974), a landscape painter who in his later years moved to Palm Springs and became famous for paintings of the desert; and Emil Kosa, Jr. (1903-1968) who became one of Hollywood's best known scenic painters and set designers, while distinguishing himself as a bold painter of urban Los Angeles as well as light-filled views of the countryside.

The Not-So-Still Life: A Century of California Painting and Sculpture, held in 2003 at the San Jose Museum of Art, includes more than 100 works of art by such artists as Guy Rose, Franz Bischoff, Armin Hansen, Lorser Feitelson, Stanton McDonald-Wright, Hans Burkhardt, Helen Lundeberg, Paul Wonner, Wayne Thiebaud, Mildred Howard, Edward Ruscha, Ed Kienholz, George Herms, Richard Shaw, Peter Shelton, Alan Rath, and Robert Therrien. Divided into three sections: 1900-1930, 1920-1950 and 1950- 2000, the exhibition traces the intriguing evolution of still life in California over the last century. It is a revisionist examination of the genre. According to the curators, what was once the most conservative form of artistic practice has been transformed into one of the more radical forms of expression. Contemporary still life is no longer "still" -- it has not only moved off the table, but off the wall and into three dimensions. The exhibition examines a great variety of styles and media, from Impressionist paintings of apples and oranges to witty ceramic sculpture, funky assemblage art, and electronic media.

Old California is a 2000 exhibition at the California Art Club Gallery featuring original paintings and sculptures inspired by the romance and hardships that built a land named after the 16th century Spanish fable describing the treasure island, "California." The exhibition features prominent genre and figure artists of the California Art Club: Kalan Brunink, William George, Dan Goozeé, Joseph Mendez, Joel Phillips, Vic Riesau, and early CAC artist, Theodore Lukits (1897-1992).

Also see: Pacific Coast Painting: Alaska, California, Hawaii, Oregon, Washington: 19th-21st Century


Editor's Note:

TFAO's America's Distinguished Artists catalog contains biographical information on certain artists referenced in this article plus copyright-free artwork images from Wikimedia Commons. The following images from Distinguished Artists are representative of art created by artists noted in the above article. They are not specific to the article, however are shown here to provide an indication of works created by the artists. 


(above:  Arthur B. Davies, Sweet Tremulous Leaves, 1922-1923, oil on canvas, 30 3/8 x 18 1/4 inches, National Gallery of Art (USA), Chester Dale Collection. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons*)


(above: Thomas Hill, Resting by a Stream, 1866, oil on canvas, 24 x 32 inches, Private collection. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons*)


(above: William Keith, Hetch Hetchy Side Canyon, c. 1908, oil on canvas, 22 x 27.9 inches, De Young Museum. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons*)


(above: Thomas Moran, Grand Canyon with Rainbow. 1912. Oil on canvas. de Young Art Museum. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Robert F. Gill through the Patrons of Art and Music. 1981.89. License: Scuttlebutte, CC BY-SA 4.0 Scuttlebutte, CC BY-SA 4.0. via Wikimedia Commons)


(above: William S. Parrott, Mount Hood, c.1880, oil on canvas,  21.7 x 31.6 inches, Portland Art Museum.  Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)


(above: Cleveland S. Rockwell, Mount Rainier From the Mouth of the Nisqually River, 1891, watercolor, NOAA Photo Library. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons*)

*Tag for expired US copyright of object image:

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