Cover image for Pacific Arcadia : images of California, 1600-1915
Pacific Arcadia : images of California, 1600-1915
Perry, Claire, 1954-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Oxford University Press, 1999.
Physical Description:
xiv, 242 pages : illustrations (some color) ; 29 cm
General Note:
Catalog of an exhibition opening Apr. 20, 1999 at the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Center for Visual Arts at Stanford University.

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
N8214.5.U6 P473 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



Since the arrival of the Spanish explorers in the sixteenth century, California has been thought of as a land of promise and opportunity. This lavishly illustrated catalog, which is to accompany a major exhibit opening in April 1999 at Stanford's Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Center for VisualArts and traveling subsequently to two other museums, presents a fascinating cultural history of an idyllic vision of California that still figures prominently in the American imagination. Brought together in one show for the first time, this combination of art is unique in its range from high artto popular representations. Currier and Ives lithographs and the work of early European cartographers are juxtaposed with photographs by Carleton E. Watkins, Arnold Genthe, and Eadweard Muybridge, and paintings by Albert Bierstadt, James Walker, and William Hahn, among others. With one hundred andfifty plates--sixty in full color--Pacific Arcadia illuminates the imagery of the California Dream.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Perry's work, coinciding with an exhibit at Stanford University, classifies and describes representations of California, beginning with its depiction on early maps as an island. Once cartographers sutured it to the mainland, California's attractions to illustrators were the Spanish colonists and the native Indians. Palettes and pencils then lay idle until the gold rush, when they were joined by photographic plates. Together, they captured the imagery of the gold miner that has remained iconic to this day. No detail of those historical images goes undescribed by Perry, who nevertheless in her introduction disclaims an aesthetic purpose. She rather treats the drawings and paintings as one means by which the middle class and the wealthy wished to project the ordered, Anglo society they wanted to create in California. Critiquing the paintings, some by Albert Bierstadt, as in effect commercial art--advertisements for California's enticements of agricultural bounty and wondrous landscapes--Perry's interpretations broadly fit her evidence. Yet despite her economic view, the beauty of many of this volume's 200 images is what will lure readers. --Gilbert Taylor

Library Journal Review

Because of the beauty and variety of its physical geography and climate, California would probably have become a region dominated by powerful mythology even without the Gold Rush, Hollywood, or oranges. The Golden State has nurtured "California dreams" for three centuries through potent images, from explorers' maps, advertisements, wilderness photography, paintings, and, of course, the movies. In this companion to an exhibit at Stanford's Cantor Center for Visual Arts, curator Perry chronicles the iconography of early California. The book, which is the first of its kind, is both breathtaking and frustrating: for example, by ending her study with the Panama-Pacific International Exposition of 1915, Perry curiously (and perhaps conveniently) avoids having to consider the massive impact of the motion picture industry on the visual history of "California dreamin'." Written in accessible but at times plodding, self-conscious, and understated prose, this is nonetheless a unique contribution to the history of an immensely important region. Highly recommended for all large public and academic libraries.√ĄDouglas F. Smith, Oakland P.L., CA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

Prepared to accompany an art exhibition of the same name, this beautifully illustrated, delightfully interpretive, and carefully documented volume illustrates how California and its future were marketed and presented to prospective settlers to the state through carefully conceived--and contrived--artistic and literary images of life along the Pacific. In the 17th century, California was often represented as an island to encourage settlement, while in later centuries paintings, letter sheets, illustrations, and literature proclaimed the fertility of the soil, the availability of water, and the prosperous and civilized life that might be found there through personal diligence. Each period in California history called forth different images to entice settlement and visitations to this region. Landscape paintings and stereo views encouraged eastern audiences to travel west to enjoy the wilderness world of California's forests, valleys, and coastline. Tourism became an emerging industry. This boomer tradition in art, with its engaging images of life, natural resources, and the agricultural potential of a developing state, undoubtedly encouraged many to settle in this Pacific Arcadia, but even for those who did not settle there it created a complex and enduring image of life in California. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty. P. D. Thomas; Wichita State University