This essay looks at the tension between pristine natural beauty and industry and how they have informed, and been represented in, California landscape painting and photography. Amy Scott argues that the influence of the traditional California landscape in art has evolved, thanks to a flexible understanding of the concept of the sublime, which draws upon ideas of nature to respond to external changes—including developments in technology. These changes have shaped the ways in which we imagine both the natural and the built environment in relation to ourselves. Scott traces this evolution through Albert Bierstadt’s mid-nineteenth century painting On the Merced River and through twentieth century works by James Doolin, Ed Ruscha, Karen Halverson, and Michael Light.

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