Reference Entry

O’Sullivan, Timothy

Terence Pitts

in Oxford Art Online


Published online January 2003 | e-ISBN: 9781884446054 | DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.1093/gao/9781884446054.article.T064162

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(b ?Ireland, 1840; d Staten Island, NY, Jan 14, 1882).

American photographer. He was employed in the studio of Mathew Brady in Washington, DC, when the Civil War (1861–5) broke out. After photographing the early stages of the war in South Carolina, he left Brady’s studio to work for Alexander Gardner, and almost one half of the photographs in Gardner’s Photographic Sketchbook of the War (?New York, 1866/R1959) are by him. O’Sullivan’s war photographs, like Gardner’s, moved beyond the superficial documentation of battlefields and the mundane activities of armies (see fig.), and he began to photograph the grim reality of war; he is particularly noted for his photographs of battlefield dead (e.g. Field where General Reynolds Fell, 1863; see Snyder, 1981, p. 17).

In 1867–9 and 1872 O’Sullivan accompanied the geologist Clarence King (1842–1901) on his Fortieth Parallel Survey expeditions, photographing some of the West’s more extraordinary geological sites, natural resources and important mining areas. In the landscape of the West, King saw confirmation of his view that geological change came through catastrophic upheaval, and his theories probably influenced O’Sullivan’s approach to the landscape. O’Sullivan’s work for King depicts immense, arid, unpopulated spaces and freakish remnants of past geological eras. During ...

Reference Entry.  568 words. 

Subjects: Photography and Photographs ; Art of the United States ; 19th-Century Art

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