The J. Paul Getty Museum

[First View of the Valley]

Object Details


[First View of the Valley]


Carleton Watkins (American, 1829 - 1916)




Yosemite, California, United States (Place Created)


about 1866


Albumen silver print

Object Number:



41.1 × 52.4 cm (16 3/16 × 20 5/8 in.)

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Object Description

Carleton Watkins positioned his camera in what appears to be midair, capturing the breathtaking effect of the view of Yosemite Valley on first-time visitors. The wonder and amazement led one spectator to proclaim, ''I can tell you nothing of the beauty and grandeur of the scenery--I could not speak, my breath was gone . . . .It is truly the great work of God." Such a remark reveals that Watkins's photographs confirmed the sense of wonder celebrated in America's grand wilderness.

Experimental Photography: The First Golden Age 1851-1889 (April 11 to June 25, 1989)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum (Malibu), April 11 to June 25, 1989
Carleton Watkins: Western Landscape and the Classical Vision (March 13 to May 27, 1990)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum (Malibu), March 13 to May 27, 1990
Pioneers of Landscape Photography: Carleton Watkins and Gustave Le Gray (September 1 to November 7, 1993)
  • Städtische Galerie im Städelsches Kunstinstitut (Frankfurt), September 1 to November 7, 1993
Carleton Watkins: From Where the View Looked Best (February 15 to June 4, 2000)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center (Los Angeles), February 15 to June 4, 2000
Photographers of Genius (March 16 to July 25, 2004)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center (Los Angeles), March 16 to July 25, 2004
Yosemite: Art of an American Icon (September 24, 2006 to January 21, 2007)
  • Museum of the American West (Los Angeles), September 24, 2006 to January 21, 2007
Dialogue Among Giants: Carleton Watkins and the Rise of Photography in California (October 14, 2008 to March 1, 2009)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center (Los Angeles), October 14, 2008 to March 1, 2009

Fraenkel Gallery and Peter E. Palmquist. Carleton E. Watkins: Photographs, 1861-1874 (San Francisco: Fraenkel Gallery in association with Bedford Arts, 1989), plate 1.

Naef, Weston J. Experimental Photography: The First Golden Age, 1851-1889, exh. brochure (Los Angeles: The J. Paul Getty Museum, 1989), figure 2.

Naef, Weston J. Carleton Watkins in Yosemite (Los Angeles : J. Paul Getty Museum, 2008), pl. 5.

Education Resources
Education Resources

Education Resource




Historical Witness, Social Messaging

Additional works of art related to the themes and topics of the curriculum.

Land Use and Lawmaking - Intermediate

Lesson in which students discuss principles of transcendentalism and create photographic essays depicting an environmental issue.

Visual Arts; English–Language Arts; History–Social Science


Long-Term Unit