Thursday, May 29, 2008

California as an Island maps

One of the most interesting cartographic myths of the European exploration of the Americas was maps depicting California shown as an island. This famous misconception impacted the accuracy of mapmaking for over a hundred years, until its acceptance of California as part of the mainland was established in the mid-eighteenth century.

Between the years of 1500 and 1747, a lot of confusion ensued over whether or not California, a mysterious land with an abundance of gold, was in fact an island. As early as 1500, California was thought to be an island. As more and more explorers ventured up the coastal region, it was established that California was, in reality, part of the mainland. This discovery, however, did not last long as miscommunications and mistaken observations turned the coast back into an island!

Beginning in the year 1622, California began its cartographic existence as a large island off the coast of Newe Spaine, accompanied by an article by Henry Briggs. The “island of California” appeared to have a rough and rocky coastline complete with smaller islands off the shore. The theory became universally accepted over the next ten years as influential published such as Nicolas Sanson, Fredrick de Wit and Nicolas de Fer created beautiful maps that confirmed California’s insularity. Some maps even highlighted a functional Northern coast with finger-like peninsulas reaching towards the mainland.

Father Eusebio Kino confirmed that California was part of the landmass of America in 1698 by walking to California from the mainland without encountering a body of water, then showing his results in a map published in 1705. Still, it was not until 1747 when Ferdinand VII of Spain declared it part of the mailand, by royal decree stating, “California is not an Island,” that cartographers began to eliminate the myth. Interestingly, the practice of depicting California as an island lasted until 1865 in Japanese cartography.

Arader Galleries is pleased to present to you our collection of these cartographical curiosities, all of which are currently available for purchase at our San Francisco location. Please contact us with any questions you have about this fascinating collection.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

An Iconic Panorama View of San Francisco by Eadweard Muybridge

Eadweard Muybridge (English-born, American photographer, 1830-1904)
“Panorama of San Francisco”

San Francisco: 1877

Albumen prints from glass negatives
11-panel photograph panorama
13” x 88” framed (shown here photographed in 6 sections)

The albumen print, also called albumen silver print, was invented in 1850 by Louis Désiré Blanquart-Evrard, and was the first commercially exploitable method of producing a photographic print on a paper base from a negative. It used the albumen found in egg whites to bind the photographic chemicals to the paper and became the dominant form of photographic positives from 1855 to the turn of the century, with a peak in 1860-90.

Eadweard Muybridge was a brilliant, eccentric photographer, who gained worldwide fame photographing animal and human movement imperceptible to the human eye.

Muybridge’s given name was Edward James Muggeridge, and he was born at Kingston upon Thames in England. In 1855 Muybridge moved to San Francisco, starting his career as a publisher’s agent and bookseller. He left San Francisco at the end of the 1850s, after receiving severe injuries from a stagecoach accident, and returned to England. He returned to San Francisco, and found rapid success as a photographer focusing on landscape and architectural subjects. At this time he also started using the last name “Muybridge.” His photographs were sold by various photographic entrepreneurs on Montgomery Street, San Francisco's main commercial street at that time.
Muybridge’s reputation as a photographer continued to grow with his photographs focusing on Yosemite and San Francisco. He spent many years working traveling as a successful photographer. In 1868, Muybridge was commissioned to photograph the recent territory of Alaska on a US Army expedition, and in 1871 was selected as the photographer for the High Sierra survey. In 1871 he also married Flora Stone.

In 1872, Leland Stanford, a businessman, race-horse owner and former California governor, had taken a position on a popularly-debated question of the day: whether all four of a horse's hooves left the ground at the same time during a gallop. Stanford sided with this assertion that they did, called "unsupported transit", and decided to find scientific proof to back his theory. Stanford hired Muybridge to settle the issue. To prove Stanford's claim, Muybridge developed a scheme for instantaneous motion picture capture along with the chief engineer for the Southern Pacific Railroad, John D. Isaacs. In 1878, Muybridge successfully photographed a horse in fast motion to prove Stanford’s claim using a series of 24 cameras. This series of photographs, taken at what is now Stanford University, is now called The Horse in Motion, and is one of the most popular images in history.

While working on Stanford’s project in 1874, Muybridge discovered that his wife had a lover, a Major Harry Larkyns. On October 17, 1874, he sought out Larkyns; said, "Good evening, Major, my name is Muybridge and here is the answer to the letter you sent my wife,” and fatally shoot the major. Muybridge believed Larkyns to be his son's true father, although, as an adult, he bore a remarkable resemblance to Muybridge. He was put on trial for murder, his defense fees paid by Stanford, but was acquitted as a "justifiable homicide." An interesting aspect of Muybridge's defense was a plea of insanity due to a head injury Muybridge sustained following his stagecoach accident in the 1850s. Friends testified that the accident dramatically changed Muybridge's personality from genial and pleasant to unstable and erratic.

Hoping to capitalize upon the considerable public attention his photographs drew, Muybridge invented the Zoopraxiscope, which projected the images so the public could see realistic motion. The system was, in many ways, a precursor to the development of the motion picture film. His presentations of his photographs using the Zoopraxiscope in Europe and the United
States were widely acclaimed by both the public and specialist audiences of scientists and artists.

Muybridge’s breathtaking 360-degree panorama from California Street hill, taken, it is believed by scholars, between May 23 and June 23 1877 (due to examination of the shadows), and probably on Monday (people are doing their wash). This image is Muybridge’s most famous single work, providing not only one of the best views of the bustling metropolis, but also a wealth of entertainment upon close examination. This picture tells many stories. Visible in striking detail are the mansions of the rich and the dwellings of the poor, the churches, hotels, banks, and other features. Muybridge also produced a mammoth plate panorama of San Francisco, which is excessively rare. The present, smaller version was issued folding, into cloth covers.

Works by Muybridge are in the collections of most major art museums worldwide, including the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the J. Paul Getty Museum, the National Gallery of Art, the Museum of Modern Art and the Musée d’Orsay.

Please contact Arader Galleries for price information.

Arader Galleries at Richardson Bay Audubon Center & Sanctuary

Arader Galleries recently hosted a reception at the Lyford House at the Richardson Bay Audubon Center & Sanctuary in Tiburon for both Audubon California members and Audubon collectors on May 8, 2008. A spectacular collection of hand-colored engravings from John James Audubon's Birds of America was on display at the Lyford House, a historic landmark on the edge of the San Francisco Bay. The Lyford House, one of the oldest houses surviving from the ranching era in Marin County, was the perfect setting for extraordinary collection of Audubon engravings. We thank everyone at Audubon California, and all attendees of the event, for their interest in Audubon and the collection of Arader Galleries. For more information about the Richardson Bay Center and Sanctuary, please visit their web site:

Celebrating the Art of France with the French Heritage Society

Arader Galleries hosted a reception on May 1, 2008 for the French Heritage Society to celebrate The Art of France, a collection of extraordinary 16th through 19th century works of art. The French Heritage Society is dedicated to preserving French architectural, cultural and historical patrimony in the United States and France, and to furthering American-French understanding through student and professional exchanges in the field of preservation.

The event helped to raise funds for the French Heritage Society's current efforts to restore the early 17th Century Chateau de Reveillon. It was a lovely evening, and we thank the all of the attendees for their interest in learning about our collection of French artists.