The Cliff House, San Francisco

Carleton Watkinsabout 1879–1880

The J. Paul Getty Museum

The J. Paul Getty Museum
Los Angeles, United States

Dozens of people on a beach enjoy the benefits of California's moderate climate, which drew a large number of settlers and tourists to the state during this period. Many of San Francisco's prominent families such as the Hearsts, Crockers, and Stanfords, would drive their carriages out to this spot along the beach, not far from San Francisco Bay, for horse racing. Carleton Watkins often photographed such scenes of recreation near the Cliff House. the building perched atop the overhang.

Unlike earlier images in which people appeared blurred as a result of long exposure time, this image captures individuals clearly, even as they moved. By the time Watkins created this photograph, the light sensitivity of photographic material had developed to such an extent that more spontaneity was possible and the motion of people and water could be stopped.


  • Title: The Cliff House, San Francisco
  • Creator: Carleton Watkins
  • Date Created: about 1879–1880
  • Location Created: San Francisco, California, United States
  • Physical Dimensions: 36.2 × 53.3 cm (14 1/4 × 21 in.)
  • Type: Print
  • External Link: Find out more about this object on the Museum website.
  • Medium: Albumen silver print
  • Terms of Use: Open Content
  • Number: 92.XM.90
  • Culture: American
  • Credit Line: The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
  • Creator Display Name: Carleton Watkins (American, 1829 - 1916)
  • Classification: Photographs (Visual Works)

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