Visiting Sleeping Beauties: Reawakening Fashion? You must join the virtual exhibition queue when you arrive. If capacity has been reached for the day, the queue will close early.

Learn more

The New Vision: Photography between the World Wars. The Ford Motor Company Collection at The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Hambourg, Maria Morris, and Christopher Phillips
328 pages
203 illustrations
9.5 x 12.25 in
George Wittenborn Award, Winner (1990)
View More Publication Info

A decade after the establishment of the Department of Prints in the fall of 1916, the Metropolitan Museum began to collect photographs. The keystone of our holdings is the work of Alfred Stieglitz and a matchless collection of photographs by his most talented contemporaries that he gave to the Metropolitan in 1933. Stieglitz and his fellow Photo-Secessionists, working in soft-focus painterly techniques, won for the medium a large measure of respectability in the two decades before World War I. After the war a new generation of photographers turned from painterly styles and took radically different directions. Some of these young artists espoused the aesthetic principles of avant-garde movements—dadism, futurism, surrealism, constructivism; others were unaligned. But they all shared the belief that photography provided the appropriate technology and methods to record modern life. Indeed, much of the most progressive art of the 1920s and 1930s owes a great debt to their photographic visions.

Although photography is now the most ubiquitous and generally accessible of modern art media, it is not widely recognized that many of its forms—which today seem most new and which have been borrowed by modern painters—were discovered and creatively explored over half a century ago. Indeed, the photographs of the interwar period lie at the origin of our culture's visual sense of itself. These pictures are intriguing and often beautiful; if their lessons are not always easy, we are confident that the viewers' efforts will bring rich rewards.

The Octopus, Alvin Langdon Coburn  British, born United States, Platinum print
Alvin Langdon Coburn
From My Window at the Shelton, North, Alfred Stieglitz  American, Gelatin silver print
Alfred Stieglitz
Exchange Place, Berenice Abbott  American, Gelatin silver print
Berenice Abbott
[View of Rooftops], Morton Schamberg  American, Gelatin silver print
Morton Schamberg
New York, Ralph Steiner  American, Gelatin silver print
Ralph Steiner
Icarus, Empire State Building, Lewis Hine  American, Gelatin silver print
Lewis Hine
[Signs, New York City], Walker Evans  American, Gelatin silver print
Walker Evans
On the Construction Site, Mieczysław Berman  Polish, Reconstructed collage of halftone prints, ink, and graphite, ca. 1960s
Mieczysław Berman
Flatiron Building, New York, Walter Gropius  German, Gelatin silver print
Walter Gropius
Eiffel Tower, Paris, André Kertész  American, born Hungary, Gelatin silver print
André Kertész
Chrysler Building, New York, Margaret Bourke-White  American, Gelatin silver print
Margaret Bourke-White
7 A.M. (New Year's Morning), László Moholy-Nagy  American, born Hungary, Gelatin silver print
László Moholy-Nagy
ca. 1930
Akeley Motion Picture Camera, Paul Strand  American, Gelatin silver print
Paul Strand
Paul Outerbridge Jr.
45 Rockefeller Plaza, Fay Sturtevant Lincoln  American, Gelatin silver print
Fay Sturtevant Lincoln
Typewriter Keys, Ralph Steiner  American, Gelatin silver print
Ralph Steiner
Elevator Garage, Chicago, John Gutmann  American, born Germany, Gelatin silver print
John Gutmann
[Ruthsspiecher Tanks], César Domela  Dutch, Gelatin silver print
César Domela
Steamfitter, Lewis Hine  American, Gelatin silver print
Lewis Hine
The Queen Mary, Anton Bruehl  American, born Australia, Gelatin silver print
Anton Bruehl
Showing 20 of 125

View Citations

Hambourg, Maria Morris, and Christopher Phillips. 1989. The New Vision: Photography between the World Wars: Ford Motor Company Collection at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art : Distributed by H.N. Abrams.