- Gallery Text
Timothy O’Sullivan produced some of the earliest and most influential photographs of the American frontier. As a member of the Army Corps of Engineers between 1867 and 1874, he documented the work of scientists and cartographers in a post–Civil War effort to map national territory and to promote the industrial and agricultural potential of the unexplored west. This photograph records the remnants of Anasazi cliff dwellings tucked into the expansive rock walls of Cañon de Chelle in New Mexico. The dramatic landscape documents the geological significance of the canyon while also symbolizing the decline of Native American peoples and the threat they posed.
At the time they were made, O’Sullivan’s photographs were intended as documents. Yet in the twentieth century, when photographers and curators began to evaluate his work by modern aesthetic standards, his scientific images entered the photographic canon as works of art.
- Identification and Creation
- Object Number
Timothy H. O'Sullivan, American (New York, New York 1840 - 1882 Staten Island, New York)
- Ancient Ruins in the Cañon de Chelle, N.M. In a niche 50 feet above present cañon bed.
- Other Titles
- Series/Book Title: Geo. M. Wheeler Geographical Survey West of the 100th Meridian, 1873, no. 10
- Work Type
- Creation Place: North America, United States, New Mexico
- Physical Descriptions
- Albumen silver print
- image: 27.5 x 20.1 cm (10 13/16 x 7 15/16 in.)
sheet: 52 x 40.3 cm (20 1/2 x 15 7/8 in.)
- Inscriptions and Marks
- stamp: recto, top center, pre-printed mount: WAR DEPARTMENT [over] CORPS OF ENGINEERS. U.S. ARMY.
- inscription: recto, top center, graphite: Sci2600.290
- stamp: recto, top edge, pre-printed mount: Geographical & Geological Explorations & Surveys West of the 100th Meridian. Expedition of 1873 - Lieut. Geo. M. Wheeler, Corps of Engineers, Commanding
- stamp: recto, on mount below image, pre-printed mount: T.H. O'Sullivan, Phot. No. 10 [over] ANCIENT RUINS IN THE CANON DE CHELLE, N.M. [over] In a niche 50 feet above present Cañon bed.
- Acquisition and Rights
- Credit Line
- Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Transfer from the Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts, Transferred from the Museum of Comparative Zoology Library, Gift of the U.S. War Department, 1877
- Accession Year
- Object Number
- European and American Art
- Publication History
Robin Kelsey, Viewing the Archive: Timothy O'Sullivan's Photographs for the Wheeler Survey, 1871-74, History of Photography (December 2003), vol. 85, no. 4: 702-723, p. 703, fig. 1
- Exhibition History
HAA 10 Survey Course (S421): The Western Tradition: Art Since the Renaissance (Fall 08 Rotation 1), Arthur M. Sackler Museum, 09/13/2008 - 10/19/2008
Re-View: S426A (Large Niche) #1: CB30 Photography and Society & HAA172w American Art and Modernity, Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Cambridge, 09/04/2009 - 10/04/2009
HAA 10 Survey Course (S421): The Western Tradition: Art Since the Renaissance (Fall 10 Rotation 3), Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Cambridge, 11/12/2010 - 01/15/2011
32Q: 2100 19th Century, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 11/01/2014 - 03/04/2015
- Subjects and Contexts
Google Art Project
- Verification Level
3 - Good. Object is well described and information is vetted