On Desert Time

Landscape Photographs by O’Sullivan & Bell, 1871–1874
May 29, 2016–Jan 8, 2017
Timothy H. O'Sullivan, Ancient Ruins in the Cañon de Chelle, N. M. in a Niche 50 Feet above Present Cañon Bed, 1873. Albumen silver print.

Timothy H. O'Sullivan, Ancient Ruins in the Cañon de Chelle, N. M. In a Niche 50 Feet above Present Cañon Bed., 1873. Albumen silver print. Denver Art Museum Collection: The Daniel Wolf Landscape Photography Collection, 1991.483.48

Timothy H. O'Sullivan, Black Cañon, Colorado River, Looking Below from Big Horn Camp, 1871. Albumen silver print.

Timothy H. O'Sullivan, Black Cañon, Colorado River, Looking Below from Big Horn Camp, 1871. Albumen silver print. Denver Art Museum Collection: The Daniel Wolf Landscape Photography Collection, 1991.483.4

Timothy H. O'Sullivan, Historic Spanish Record of the Conquest. South Side of Inscription Rock, N. M., 1873. Albumen silver print.

Timothy H. O'Sullivan, Historic Spanish Record of the Conquest. South Side of Inscription Rock, N. M., 1873. Albumen silver print. Denver Art Museum Collection: The Daniel Wolf Landscape Photography Collection, 1991.483.39

Timothy H. O'Sullivan, Water Rhyolites, Near Logan Springs, Nevada, 1871. Albumen silver print.

Timothy H. O'Sullivan, Water Rhyolites, Near Logan Springs, Nevada, 1871. Albumen silver print. Denver Art Museum Collection: The Daniel Wolf Landscape Photography Collection, 1991.483.13

William H. Bell, Cañon of Kanab Wash, Colorado River, Looking South, 1872. Albumen silver print.

William H. Bell, Cañon of Kanab Wash, Colorado River, Looking South, 1872. Albumen silver print. Denver Art Museum Collection: The Daniel Wolf Landscape Photography Collection, 1991.483.17

William H. Bell, Cañon of Kanab Wash, Colorado River, Looking North, 1872. Albumen silver print.

William H. Bell, Cañon of Kanab Wash, Colorado River, Looking North, 1872. Albumen silver print. Denver Art Museum Collection: The Daniel Wolf Landscape Photography Collection, 1991.483.18

William H. Bell, Grand Cañon, Colorado River, near Paria Creek, Looking West, 1872. Albumen silver print.

William H. Bell, Grand Cañon, Colorado River, near Paria Creek, Looking West, 1872. Albumen silver print. Denver Art Museum Collection: The Daniel Wolf Landscape Photography Collection, 1991.483.23

Closed: May 29, 2016–Jan 8, 2017
North Building - Level 7

On Desert Time presents photographs by Timothy H. O’Sullivan and William H. Bell made in the American Southwest, 1871-1874. In those years, these photographers worked on the Wheeler Survey— a series of expeditions in the American Southwest led by Lieutenant George Wheeler that were officially titled the Geographic Explorations and Surveys West of the 100th Meridian. The Wheeler Survey was charged with the task of mapping lands for the development of military posts, transportation corridors, and mineral resources in territories ceded to the United States at the end of the Mexican-American War. Within these constraints, O’Sullivan and Bell created striking views of the desert region that reflect both the bones of the landscape and the photographers’ own experiences in the area.

Over four summers (1871–74), the photographers documented places, cultures, and geologic phenomena across lands that now lie within Arizona, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, and New Mexico, including areas such as the Grand Canyon and Canyon de Chelly. In doing so, they both drew upon the conventions of landscape photography and painting as practiced in wetter, more verdant places and invented new visual forms that responded to the new environments they encountered. O’Sullivan’s and Bell’s pictures, printed in Washington, D.C. over the following winters and published in bound portfolios, fueled people’s curiosity about a region that was largely unknown to European Americans farther east.

The Daniel Wolf Landscape Photography Collection was acquired with funds from Mr. and Mrs. George G. Anderman, Nancy L. Benson, Florence R. and Ralph L. Burgess Trust, 1990 Collectors' Choice, J. Rathbone Falck, General Service Foundation, Mr. and Mrs. William D. Hewit, Mr. and Mrs. Edward H. Leede, Pauline A. and George R. Morrison Trust, Frederick and Jan Mayer, Newmont Mining Corporation, O'Shaughnessy Fund, Volunteer Endowment Fund, Ginny Williams, Estelle Wolf, anonymous donors, and the generosity of our visitors, with additional support from the voters who created the Scientific and Cultural Facilities District (SCFD).