Monday, August 28, 2006

The Crocker Museum

Yesterday the M.C. Escher "Art of Illusion" exhibit drew me to the Crocker Museum in Sacramento, and after savoring the works of the master I wandered freely through other exhibits, including the Early California section, where two huge paintings by Charles Nahl flank the pair of curving stairs, on the second floor.

The inner sanctum at this second level contains, presently, among many other paintings, a huge Thomas Hill of Yosemite, as seen from Inspiration Point, perhaps, and beside it, a rather smaller painting of the Old Soda Springs on the Upper North Fork American, up around six thousand feet in elevation. Mark Hopkins, one of California's Big Four, acquired land there late in the 1860s, and, possibly in partnership with Leland Stanford, opened a hotel near the springs.

The current town of Soda Springs is merely where visitors to the North Fork's Soda Springs would get off the train, to ride in a stage coach the rest of the way, over eight miles of dusty road.

The painting is by one Norton Bush, and dates from 1868. Anderson Peak and Tinkers Knob loom in the background, both somewhat exaggerated in size and shape, and in the foreground is a meadow flanked by a waterfall on the left. In the meadow is the Hopkins Cabin, but no hotel; the hotel would not appear until 1870, as I recall. And near the cabin are two people, one a man with a gun.

The text accompanying the Bush painting calls this neat, rectangular, gabled, squared-log cabin the "Mary Hopkins" cabin.

At any rate, the painting makes an interesting record, within the history of the upper North Fork. I hadn't been aware that this painting existed. I have a newspaper record of a "blockhouse" soon to be a-building, near or at the soda springs, around 1864, for gold mining purposes, and I have always wondered whether the Hopkins Cabin, which still stands, might have been this very blockhouse.

The M.C. Escher exhibit only stays until September 3, and I wouldn't know how long the Bush painting will stay up, in the Early California section. I have the Crocker at 216 O St. Sacramento.

No comments: