Large Format Jackson Photograph in Colorado
Showing the Influence of Thomas Moran
A wonderful original mammoth-plate photograph by the renowned western landscape photographer, William H. Jackson. A prolific photographer of the West, Jackson gained fame for photographic views made while he was a part of the famous 1870 U.S. Geological Survey team under Ferdinand V. Hayden, which explored vast swaths of Colorado, Utah, Montana and Wyoming, including parts of Yellowstone. The present large-scale photograph is one of several dramatic promotional landscape views Jackson made for the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad. Like made circa 1880-81, it presents a fine view of Ute Pass, Colorado, and is notable for reflecting the influence of noted western painter, Thomas Moran, who at the time of this image was collaborating with Jackson on a commission project for the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad. While the image is entirely Jackson's work, it is interesting to note how its visual style seems to evoke Thomas Moran's landscape aesthetics.
Peter B. Hales has pointed out the influence of Thomas Moran, the painter, which is very much evident in the present photograph.
[Jackson's] success grew also from his capacity to acquire and adapt already accepted visual styles and thematic messages about the nature of landscape from a wide variety of broad-based sources. During the [Hayden] Survey years Jackson had depended upon his own "taste"...influenced by his direct acquaintances and friends - Hayden, Gifford, Moran, Stevenson, Eliot, and the scientists with whom he lived in close contact while working.... [Thomas] Moran's influence was probably greater during these years than it had been during the Survey... Moran's masterful presentation of a mass-market picturesque...now applied directly to Jackson's needs... - Hales, William Henry Jackson and the Transformation of the American Landscape, page 156.
Jackson usually made the mammoth-plate format prints himself:
Commissioned pictures were usually made by assitants, with the result monitored by Jackson to guarantee that they conformed to the Jackson style and were up to the photographer's standards...When clients were particularly influential, or when mammoth-plates (18-by-22-inch) views were ordered, Jackson himself usually made the photographs. - Hales, page 157.
In 1879, Jackson established a commercial photography studio in Denver, pioneering the sale of western landscape photographs. The present photograph was part of Jackson's commission work for the railroad, likely from about 1881:
In 1881 the photographer succeeded in arranging for a grandiose tour of the West on the D&RG lines with his two old Survey friends, Ernest Ingersoll and Thomas Moran... The trip was the first of a series of commissions
Jackson was given his own personal railroad car, which served as his base of operations during photographic excursions.
This mammoth plate photograph is very rare in the market, with only a single confirmed sold example in the last twenty years per RBH. In institution confines, we can locate only a single example, that at Yale.