Edwin Deakin (1838-1923) was born in Sheffield, England, and immigrated to America in 1856. He lived in Chicago where, for a time, he earned his living painting commissioned portraits of Civil War heroes. In 1870, he moved west to San Francisco and established his home and studio. Deakin's paintings, in the Romantic landscape tradition, created iconic images of the Sierra Nevada, especially the Lake Tahoe Basin.
Other than the painters and photographers who accompanied teams that were mapping overland routes for settlers and establishing rights-of-way for the railroad, it was rare for artists in the mid-to-late nineteenth century to ply their trade, much less settle in the dry, barren expanses of Nevada. Conversely, the western boundary of the state, particularly the spectacular crest of the Sierra Nevada, was favored by artists who were attracted by its dramatic snow-capped peaks and deep vistas.
Deakin was a popular and versatile painter whose subject matter ranged from still lifes to mountain landscapes. Lake Tahoe and its much smaller neighbor, Fallen Leaf Lake, were locales that attracted Deakin–Tahoe because of the possibilities it offered for creating scenes with dramatic atmospheric effects and Fallen Leaf because of the intimate scale, especially the outcropping of rocks along its shoreline.
The artist's landscapes were in part a matter of formula. The influence of late American Romantic landscape painters such as Albert Bierstadt (1830-1902), Thomas Moran (1837-1926), and Thomas Hill (1829–1908) is evident in Deakin's manner of composition and the way he imparted color to his canvases. A characteristic Deakin landscape featured a sweep of tall, dark trees across the foreground, silhouettes that made the sun-drenched peaks in the distance seem even farther away. It was often atmospheric perspective at its most exaggerated, and American collectors could not get enough of it.
Deakin moved to Berkeley, California, and built a home on a large tract of land shortly after he returned from sketching and painting in Europe between 1887 and 1890. His reputation rested most comfortably on a series of twenty-one oil and watercolor paintings depicting the Spanish missions in California that were established by Father Junipero Serra, a project that took the artist twenty-nine years to complete. Deakin died in Berkeley in 1923 at the age of eighty-five.
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