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Deborah A. Middleton

The first national parks were conceived to preserve the natural wonders of a primeval American wilderness that served as inspiration for American painters and photographers. American landscape architecture and park design were central to the emergence of the National Park System at the end of the 19th century, and the permanent conservation of threatened areas of natural beauty. Photography and landscape painting strongly influenced the aesthetic appreciation of unspoiled nature. Photography informed the construction of pictorial spaces, distances, situated views in unexpected places, lighting, angle of view, framing of the view. The overwhelming experience of America’s natural places influenced painters, such as Thomas Cole, Thomas Moran and Albert Bierstadt, and naturalists, such as John Muir, whose emphasis on the transcendental vision of wilderness began to shape a desire to conserve these places as national symbols of America. Moran’s paintings of Yellowstone Park were influential in designating Yellowstone as America’s first national park on ...