MASTERPIECES FROM THE GILMAN PAPER COMPANY COLLECTION February 26 - May 23, 1999
INVENTING A NEW ART: EARLY PHOTOGRAPHS FROM THE RUBEL COLLECTION IN THE METROPOLITAN MUSEUM OF ART June 1 - September 19, 1999
MASTERPIECES FROM THE GILMAN PAPER COMPANY COLLECTION
Forty-three exquisite examples of 19th-century British, French, and American photographs from the renowned Gilman Paper Company Collection are view in the Howard Gilman Gallery from February 26 through May 23, 1999. This installation provides the public with the opportunity to rediscover key monuments in the history of photography not seen since the Metropolitan's landmark 1993 exhibition The Waking Dream. Many of the works exhibited are rare or unique, and all are of exceptional quality, dating from the first quarter-century of the medium's existence.
The early British photographs included in Masterpieces of Photography from the Gilman Paper Company Collection include a veritable cast of Victorian characters and types, including a fanciful portrait of young girls in fancy dress adorned with wild flowers by Lewis Carroll; the imposing industrial engineer and shipbuilder Isambard Kingdom Brunel, standing before the launching chains of the Great Eastern, by Robert Howlett; a patient from the Surrey County Lunatic Asylum, by Dr. Hugh Welch Diamond; and the young consumptive poet Philip Stanhope Worsley, by Julia Margaret Cameron.
Among the French photographs included in the exhibition are superb examples of early daguerreotypes, including Choiselat and Ratel's dazzling detailed view of the Louvre and Tuileries Gardens. Also exhibited are major works by the first generation of paper-print photographers in France, many of whom began their careers as painters, such as Gustave Le Gray, Edouard Baldus, and Charles Nègre. Ambitious in scale, painterly in treatment, and lush in tonalities, prints such as Baldus's Group at the Château de la Faloise, Le Gray's Forest of Fontainebleau and Onesipe Aguado's Woman Seen from the Back are unique prints and are touchstones of photography's golden age.
Two of the Gilman Paper Company Collection's most engaging daguerreotypes are included in the American section of the installation: John Fitzgibbon's powerful, hand-colored portrait of the Kansas Chief Kno-Shr from 1853; and a marvelously sensitive portrait, made in 1845, of the Hutchinson Family Singers, whose repertory of songs championed such reformist causes as temperance, women's rights, and above all, the abolition of slavery.
The Civil War also finds echoes in a beautiful portrait of an African-American youth whose identity remains a mystery but whose self-possession and dignity are evident, and in an illustrated broadside for the capture of President Lincoln's assassin, John Wilkes Booth, and his co-conspirators. Finally, two visions of the American landscape are revealed in Timothy O'Sullivan's Fissure Vent of Steamboat Springs, Nevada, a barren, steamy landscape looking much like an entrance to the underworld, and Carleton Watkins's lush Edenic portrayal of the Pacific Northwest in Multnomah Falls Cascade, Columbia River.
The Gilman Paper Company Collection, widely considered to be the finest privately held collection of photography from the medium's first hundred years, was formed over the course of two decades by the late Howard Gilman and his curator Pierre Apraxine. The Waking Dream: Photography's First Century, a catalogue of more than 250 photographs from Gilman Paper Company Collection, illustrates and puts in context all of the works included in the current installation.
Masterpieces of Photography from the Gilman Paper Company Collection is curated by Maria Morris Hambourg, Curator in Charge of the Metropolitan Museum's Department of Photographs.
INVENTING A NEW ART: EARLY PHOTOGRAPHS FROM THE RUBEL COLLECTION IN THE METROPOLITAN MUSEUM OF ART
A selection of 36 recently acquired photographs from the famed Rubel Collection will be on view in The Metropolitan Museum of Art's Howard Gilman Gallery from June 1 through September 19, 1999, in Inventing a New Art: Early Photographs from The Rubel Collection in The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Acquired by the Museum in 1997 through purchase and promised gift, the 78 photographs in the Rubel Collection constitute one of the most extraordinary representations of Britain's rich photographic history in this country, and include rare and beautifully preserved examples by each of the four great pillars of early British photography — William Henry Fox Talbot, the medium's inventor; David Octavius Hill and Robert Adamson, the Scottish painter-photographer team active in the 1840s; Roger Fenton, the central figure in British photography of the 1850s; and Julia Margaret Cameron, the famous portraitist of the 1860s. The Rubel Collection is the most significant acquisition of 19th-century photographs ever made by the Metropolitan and now constitutes one of the cornerstones of the Museum's photography collection.
Among the works by Talbot and his circle are photographs from the very dawn of the medium's existence: early experiments by Talbot himself softly rendered in tones of violet and lavender, as well as photograms of feathers and botanical specimens by Talbot's followers, all made within a few years of the announcement of photography's invention.
Hill and Adamson were among the first photographers, from 1843 to 1847, to produce a large and self-consciously artistic body of work in the new medium, and the Rubel Collection includes richly printed examples presented by Hill himself to the Royal Scottish Academy in 1852. Among the Hill and Adamson prints exhibited are fine examples of the Rembrandtesque portraits that earned the team its reputation and constituted the bulk of their oeuvre, as well as rarer landscapes, town views, architectural compositions, and genre scenes such as At the Minnow Pool, Edinburgh Ale, The Fairy Tree, and The Pends, Saint Andrews. Of particular note is Newhaven Fishwives, a rare large-format photograph from Hill and Adamson's series on the fishermen and women of a small town near Edinburgh, the first sustained use of photography for a social documentary project.
The crown jewels of the Rubel Collection are three photographs by Roger Fenton, each a large and unique print from his personal albums. One, Reclining Odalisque — the masterpiece of Fenton's 1858 orientalist suite — is the embodiment of 19th-century notions of the exotic and the erotic. The other two are expansive landscapes, reminiscent of cloud studies by Constable or explorations of light and atmosphere by Turner; they are among Fenton's most sublime compositions.
The exhibition also includes six exceptionally fine portraits by Julia Margaret Cameron. Two are closely related variants of a portrait of her mentor, the eminent scientist Sir John Herschel, his white hair in a disheveled halo and his eyes locked in a riveting gaze; another portrays Cameron's neighbor, the poet laureate Alfred, Lord Tennyson. Three other portraits, all of women, are fine examples of Cameron's deeply spiritual allegorical portraits: Sappho, Cassiopeia, and Zoe, Maid of Athens.
Four additional photographs — one each by Talbot, Hill and Adamson, Fenton, and Cameron — already in the collection before the recent acquisition, are included to illustrate the ways in which the Rubel Collection fills gaps and enriches the holdings of the Metropolitan.
Also included will be a select group of American and European daguerreotypes, including a powerful portrait of the abolitionist Frederick Douglass. A number of these were collected by Hermine B. Rubel in the 1930s and 1940s, and bequeathed in 1977 to her grandson William Rubel, the founder and editor of Stone Soup, a literary magazine written and illustrated by children.
The exhibition will be accompanied by a special issue of the Museum Bulletin, containing a fully illustrated checklist of the 78 works acquired by the Metropolitan and color plates of the works on view.
Inventing a New Art: Early Photographs from The Rubel Collection in The Metropolitan Museum of Art is curated by Malcolm Daniel, Associate Curator in the Metropolitan Museum's Department of Photographs.
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March 8, 1999