Sequoia : The Heralded Tree in American Art and Culture
In a wide-ranging analysis of the cultural meaning of the California sequoias, Lori Vermaas reveals how Americans have seen nature as an inspiration, a natural resource, and a national treasure. Analyzing a wide range of sources - landscape paintings, stereographs, tourist photographs, advertisements, and art photography - Vermaas traces the transformation in American views of the natural environment from the nineteenth century to today.When Americans first explored the Sierras and saw the sequoias in 1852, they were awestruck. They viewed these trees not just as wonders of nature but as American possessions - symbols of the nation's strength, nobility, and endurance - whose significance was made more poignant by the sectional issues that threatened the nation's very foundation. Lacking an ancient history and troubled by secession scares, Americans turned to the landscape for signs of a durable heritage. The giant trees proved to be ideal elements - ancient monuments comparable to the cathedrals of Europe, the pyramids of Egypt, and other sacred Old World artifacts. Inspired by the trees' notoriety and grandeur, artists and illustrators since the nineteenth century have depicted these giants in masterful landscapes from artists like Albert Bierstadt and Thomas Hill; in stunning tree portraits by lithographers like Edward Vischer and tourist photographers like Yosemite's Julius Boysen; in stirring logging photography; and in powerful scenes in Hollywood films, including Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo.In Sequoia, Vermaas looks at the trees' depiction and how they reveal the often-fraught relationship between Americans and nature. The result is an eye-opening history of Americans in the West and their interactions with the land. Americans perceived the wilderness as a vast, open preserve destined to be conquered and controlled, but around the time of the trees' discovery and celebration, Americans were beginning to see the Western landscape (and the sequoias) through very different lenses. Some Americans, especially businessmen and railroad companies, endeavored to put the trees to commercial use, seeing them as the source of tremendous profits. Others, like tourists and early environmentalists, fought to preserve them, often because they saw the majestic trees as their nation's natural inheritance.Sequoia presents a perspective on both the environment and America culture, offering a new understanding of the contentious battles over nature today.
- Hardback | 288 pages
- 166.9 x 231.9 x 28.2mm | 716.68g
- 26 Mar 2004
- Smithsonian Books
- Washington, United States
- 75 b&w photographs