Acquired in California by Albert Haugstad of Ellsinore, Denmark, circa 1900
By descent to Edith Haugstad, Ellsinore, Denmark
From the Estate of the above to Bo Cosman Lindgren, Tikob, Denmark, 1991
Gift of the above to his son Malte Farnaes, 1995
The 72 photographs in the album offered here comprise a portion of Carleton Watkins's comprehensive survey of the landscape, agriculture, and irrigation systems of California's Kern County in the 1880s. Commissioned to make the photographs by James Ben Ali Haggin, a wealthy investor who owned extensive acreage in the county, Watkins spent the summer of 1888 in the Bakersfield area, producing over 700 negatives of Kern County life. The photographs were used by Haggin and his partner Lloyd Tevis to lure farming interests to the area; they were exhibited at local fairs and international expositions, and promoted by the Kern County Board of Trade; and they were sold by Watkins individually, or bound and sold in albums, such as the one offered here. That the present album was purchased by a Danish chocolate-maker and brought back to Ellsinore, Denmark, may indicate the success of Watkins's photographs in portraying the potential of California agriculture to the world at large.
As California historian Richard Steven Street has pointed out, these Kern County photographs, made when Watkins was nearly sixty, demonstrate the continual development of his talents as a photographer and the sophistication of his eye. In his informative article, 'A Kern County Diary: The Forgotten Photographs of Carleton E. Watkins, 1881 - 1888' (California History: The Magazine of the California Historical Society, Vol. LXI, No. 4, Winter, 1983), to which this entry is indebted, Street details the history of Watkins's Kern County project and praises the photographer's skillfully orchestrated photographs of daily farming life. 'Although the subject matter was conventional and prescribed,' Street writes, 'Watkins did not treat the images as routine. Balancing mundane surroundings with his deep commitment to artistry,' the photographer succeeded in making pictures that were at once documentary and aesthetic (ibid., p. 247). The photographs in the album offered here span a broad range of subjects and compositional styles--from the vanishing-point perspective of a railroad bridge to close-up studies of lush cling peaches, figs, and lemon trees. Into the flat, hot landscape of the Bakersfield summer, Watkins brought his gift of picture-making, creating depth and interest in the quotidian activities of agricultural life.
As both Street and Peter Palmquist, in his definitive Carleton E. Watkins: Photographer of the American West (Albuquerque, 1983) point out, individual photographs from Watkins's Kern County series, as well as albums bound in maroon cloth, were on sale at A. C. Maude's Stationery Store in Bakersfield by October of 1888. Street speculates that the photographs were printed and mounted in Watkins's San Francisco studio by an assistant, then distributed for public sale. The owner of the present album has related to Sotheby's this album's transcontinental journey, summarized as follows:
The album was brought from California to Denmark by one Albert Haugstad, chocolatier, around 1900. It is not known why Haugstad visited California, but one may speculate that he went to San Francisco because of the Ghiradelli Chocolate Company, which started production there in 1852. In 1900, Ghiradelli built a new factory, which may have occasioned Haugstad's visit. It is possible that the album was acquired by Haugstad in either San Francisco or Bakersfield, although the location and circumstances of his acquisition are not known. Upon Haugstad's death, the album passed to his daughter Edith, a Latin teacher who lived in the oldest house (built 1577) in Ellsinore, Denmark, the city of Shakespeare's Hamlet. The album remained in her attic for years, and when she passed away in 1991, the album was left to Bo Cosman Lindgren, the son of one of her oldest friends. In 1995, the album was given to his son, Malte Farnaes, who had moved to California in the mid-1980s, thus completing the album's circuit from California to Denmark and back again.
Albums or groups of Watkins's Kern County photographs, outside of those in institutions or in the original collection belonging to Haggin and his partner, are scarce. In his census of Kern County photographs, Palmquist lists three disbound albums in the Library of Congress; one album in the Huntington Library, San Marino; approximately 200 images in the Beale Memorial Library in Bakersfield; and over 100 images in the Pioneer Museum, Bakersfield (Palmquist, op. cit., p. 207). The original collection belonging to Haggin's Kern County Land Company, which, according to Street, includes approximately 700 images, is now in the possession of the land development corporation Tenneco West, Inc. It is believed that this is the first time a Watkins Kern County album, rare in private hands, has appeared at auction.
A complete list of plates in the present album, as well as details of the album's two maps, is available upon request.
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