Framing the West

The Survey Photographs of Timothy H. O'Sullivan

Toby Jurovics, Carol M. Johnson, Glenn Willumson, and William F. Stapp; Foreword by Page Stegner

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A comprehensive look at one of the most celebrated photographers of the American frontier

The image of the untamed American West persists as one of our country’s most enduring cultural myths, and few photographers have captured more compelling images of the frontier than Timothy H. O’Sullivan. Trained under Mathew Brady, O’Sullivan accompanied several government expeditions to the West—most notably with geologist Clarence King in 1867 and cartographer George M. Wheeler in 1871. Along these journeys, O’Sullivan produced many beautiful photographs that exhibit a forthright and rigorous style formed in response to the landscapes he encountered. Faced with challenging terrain and lacking previous photographic examples on which to rely, O’Sullivan created a body of work that was without precedent in its visual and emotional complexities.

The first major publication on O’Sullivan in more than thirty years, Framing the West offers a new aesthetic and formal interpretation of O’Sullivan’s photographs and assesses his influence on the larger photographic canon. The book features previously unpublished and rarely seen images and serves as a field guide for O’Sullivan’s original prints, presenting them for the first time in sequence with the chronology of their production.

Toby Jurovics is curator of photography at the Smithsonian Museum of American Art. Carol M. Johnson is curator of photography at the Library of Congress. Glenn Willumson is director of the graduate program in museum studies and associate professor of art history at the University of Florida. William F. Stapp is an independent scholar of photography. Page Stegner is a novelist, essayist, and teacher.


Smithsonian Museum of American Art, Washington, D.C. (February 12, 2010 – May 9, 2010)

“The essays in the catalog from Yale University Press puncture several myths.”--Wall Street Journal


"O'Sullivan's images capture the vastness, the loneliness, the beautiful ruggedness of this wild terrain. . . . The acute eye of a master."—Barrymore Laurence Scherer, Antiques

"Beautifully designed. . . . A scholarly book that would gracefully adorn any coffee table, the authors more than did their homework."—Mary Anne Redding, Photo Eye Magazine

"The volume is lavishly produced and tastefully designed. Crisp, sepia-toned reproductions appear in abundance, and useful commentaries accompany the images."—Jeffrey Mifflin, Archival Issues
ISBN: 9780300158915
Publication Date: March 23, 2010
Co-publisher: Published in association with the Smithsonian American Art Museum and the Library of Congress
272 pages, 9 1/2 x 11
150 color illus.