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Art and the Empire City: New York, 1825–1861

September 19, 2000–January 7, 2001

Photography, the New Medium

In counterpoint to the portrait gallery at the beginning of the exhibition, the eighth gallery presents early New York daguerreotypes and salted-paper prints. Photography, which was introduced to America by Samuel F. B. Morse soon after its invention in France in 1839, made portraiture available to an ever widening audience, which ranged from illustrious Americans such as Walt Whitman and P. T. Barnum (their daguerreotype portraits are included), to common folk such as a fireman with his hat and horn and a grocery boy with his parcel. Almost instantaneously, Americans embraced the new medium, with the result that soon there were more practicing daguerreotypists in New York City than in Paris or London. The exhibition includes works by well-known pioneers in the field—Mathew B. Brady and Jeremiah Gurney, among them—as well as lesser-known artists, including Gabriel Harrison and Samuel Root, whose contributions to this art form only now are being brought to public attention. Also on display in this gallery is a selection of miniature portraits, a medium which preceded and was displaced by the advent of photography.