Plants, Stone, California Landscapes


El Cerrito Then and Now

View of El Cerrito

El Cerrito before it was El Cerrito, from A State of Change by Laura Cunningham

In the course of holiday shopping, I stumbled on A State of Change, a book of paintings of the California landscape as it would have looked before it was filled with towns and cities. Paleo artist Laura Cunningham researches the historic ecology of a site and then paints the specific landscapes as they might have looked like thousands of years ago. I was most interested in the ones with before-and-after views, a painting of the past contrasted with a photo of the same location in the present. They give an interesting perspective on the landscaping job Californians have collectively done for the state.

Halfway up Moeser Street, El Cerrito, December 30, 2010

One painting from the Berkeley hills is fairly close to the view I get on my way home after work, so I took my own photos to compare, one with daylight, the other as I usually see it this time of year, with the sun going down. Albany Hill, prominent on the left side of the painting, is just outside of the frame in the daylight version and at the edge of the frame in the twilight version taken higher from up on Moeser.

Near the top of Moeser Street, El Cerrito December 30, 2010

There is a review of the book at Berkeleyside. Cunningham has a website with some other paintings and before-and-after views of the state.

3 Responses to “El Cerrito Then and Now”

  1. January 1st, 2011 at 9:29 am

    Amy says:

    That is a wonderful find! I live in El Cerrito and it’s great to see how it looked before we settled here. Wistfully thinking it would be nice to see more traces of the past today. Thanks for sharing.

  2. January 1st, 2011 at 12:16 pm

    Country Mouse says:

    This is a fascinating topic and a wonderful theme for a landscape artist. I often wonder the same about our area – before the old redwoods were logged, before the wineries and orchards sprang up, what was it really like where I live?

  3. January 7th, 2011 at 10:28 am

    Natalie says:

    Thanks for posting this. The book really is quite incredible.

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