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 1 March 1872. Designation of other natural areas as national parks followed: Sequoia and General Grant (1890), Mount Rainier (1899) and Carter Lake (1902), with Wind Cave, Sully’s Hill, Platt and Mesa Verde parks established between 1902 and 1906.

Oxford Art Online

National Park System in America

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.

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