ART OF THE GOLD RUSH by Janice T. Driesbach


Age Range: 0 - 520
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paper 0-520-21432-3 A tad predictably, this survey of works on paper that emerged from California at around the time of the gold rush (1848) abounds in picturesque views of duly mountainous landscapes. There are also plenty of harborside San Francisco scenes to surprise the eye with the proximity of a very few sailing vessels—and even fewer skippers. Likewise, William Birch McMurtrie’s vision of Telegraph Hill, circa 1849: The modesty of his sparse, low-lying dwellings is outdone only by the unbuilt bare vista extending alongside them. As with many 19th-century California scenes, his seems steeped in a pale golden aura, perhaps the greedy projection of a visiting artist who was hoping to mine a certain vein. Driesbach (curator at the Crocker Art Museum), Jones (curator at the Oakland Museum), and Holland (a former curator at the California Historical Society) give historical and biographical information, and observe some of the European influences that generally guided the painters; other influences can be inferred without them. For instance, A.D.O. Browere’s Miners of Placerville owes something to Breughel in the scale, hue, and figurative compression of these he-men dwarfed by trees and hefting ropes and axes. But the impact of the book as a whole is held back by the small size of its color reproductions, which assigns to the hugeness of California a mincing, unconvincing Victorianism.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1998
ISBN: 0-520-21431-5
Page count: 148pp
Publisher: Univ. of California
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15th, 1998