Timothy H. O'Sullivan The King Survey Photographs Keith F. Davis, Jane L. Aspinwall

Publication date:
29 Nov 2011
Nelson Atkins
252 pages: 279 x 279mm
384 color + b-w illus.
Sales territories:


Clarence King's Survey, undertaken between 1867 and 1872, covered a vast swathe of terrain, from the border of California eastward to the edge of the Great Plains. It was the first survey to include a full-time photographer - Timothy O'Sullivan - who produced about 450 finished photographs in large-format and smaller-format stereographs. O'Sullivan's images convey a distinct individual quality of perception, at once direct and laconic, as well as a perfect union of objective fact and personal interpretation. As such, O'Sullivan remains the most admired, studied, and debated photographer who worked on the great western surveys of the 19th century.

This handsome and enlightening book aims to enrich and enlarge our understanding of O'Sullivan's pivotal body of western photographs by emphasizing the idea of context. This ambition encompasses several frames of reference: O'Sullivan's best-known images in relation to his larger body of survey work; the function his photographs served in relation to the survey's overall goals and methodologies; and, the King Survey itself as a logical part of a complex and prolonged expeditionary endeavour. The volume also includes an essential catalogue raisonne of O'Sullivan's King Survey work.

Keith F. Davis is senior curator and Jane L. Aspinwall is assistant curator, both at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, Missouri.

"A splendid catalogue raisonne."--Larry McMurtry, Harper's Magazine

"Subverting the gleaming fields and sparkling waterways of the Hudson School, (The King Survey Photographs) show the frontier as heat-bloated, punctuated by bony rock and miserably stubby undergrowth." –Lucie Davis, Sunday Telegraph