The Art Of Mount Shasta

January 16 - May 2, 2010



Images of art objects from the exhibition (with accompanying labels)


(above: William Keith (1838-1911, born in Scotland), Canyon View - Shasta, 1878. Oil on canvas. Collection of Turtle Bay Exploration Park)

Observer George Wharton James once said of Keith, "I have watched William Keith, hair white as snow, eye dimmed with years, yet the fire of youth in his soul, paint with a fervor that seemed almost feverish, so keen was his desire to catch the visions inspired by his beloved California trees and mountains."

Keith, who traveled far and wide, was a great painter. He has been called "California's Old Master." Keith painted Mount Shasta dozens of times, in small and large paintings. In 1878 he spent the entire month of August in the Shasta area.


(above: Juan B. Wandesforde (1817-1902, born Scotland), Mt. Shasta, 1863, Watercolor on paper. Collection of Turtle Bay Exploration Park)

Wandesforde arrived in California around 1860. He was one of the most respected landscape painters in California and a co-founder and first president of the San Francisco Art Association. His earliest watercolor of Mount Shasta was done in 1863; he produced at least five more views of the mountain in watercolors and oils. Wandesforde also made views of Castle Crags, the Trinity Alps, and other Siskiyou County scenes.

In 1862 Josiah Dwight Whitney, head of the California Geological Survey and namesake of Mt. Whitney, presented a paper proposing Mount Shasta to be the highest mountain in the continental U. S. This factual error perhaps influenced public perception of the height of Mount Shasta, as reflected in this watercolor.


(above left: Alfred Thomas Agate (1812-1846, born in New York state), Shasty Peak, 1841, Ink wash on paper. Navy Art Collection, Naval Historical Center, Washington, DC.; above right: detail of Shasty Peak.)

How did the Navy come to be at Mount Shasta in 1841? This picture is the oldest known original artwork of Mount Shasta. It is part of the nearly forgotten story of America's greatest around-the-world explorers -- the Wilkes Expedition. After one of their six ships ran aground, a group of officers journeyed overland from the Columbia River past Mount Shasta to Sutter's Fort. Although they were scientific explorers, they also had a mandate to determine political conditions in anticipation of a coming war with Mexico.

The need to store the collections stemming from four years of scientific inquiry by the dedicated scientists and artists of the 1838-1842 "U.S. Exploring Expedition" was a major factor leading to the founding of the Smithsonian Institution.


(above: Alfred Thomas Agate (1812-1846, born in New York state), Shaste Peak, 1845, Steel engraving on paper. Collection of Turtle Bay Exploration Park)

Agate's original ink wash drawing was faithfully copied and reproduced as a steel engraving. The engraving became famous, while the original drawing was housed with the Wilkes Expedition's scientific records and specimens.

The 1844 first edition of this engraving has the caption, "Shasty Peak," and is the earliest known published image of Mount Shasta. Editions from 1845 and later label the picture as "Shaste Peak."

To return to the article for the exhibition please click here.

For biographical information on certain artists referenced in this article please see America's Distinguished Artists, a national registry of historic artists

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