Amon Carter Museum Announces Major Photography Acquisitions

Release date: 
August 17, 2001

Works by Albert Sands Southworth and Josiah Johnson Hawes, Alfred Stieglitz and Robert Adams add to world-renowned collection of nearly 230,000 photographic objects

Slides available upon request; view selected images on Web site: http://www.cartermuseum.org

FORT WORTH, Texas --- The Amon Carter Museum announced today that it has acquired several important photographs that add depth and continuity to what is already a major collection of American photography. Two whole-plate daguerreotypes by Albert Sands Southworth (1811--1894) and Josiah Johnson Hawes (1808--1901), 10 photographs by Alfred Stieglitz (1864--1946) and 95 photographs by Robert Adams (b. 1937) constitute important groups of rare photographic works that contribute significantly to the museum's holdings of nearly 230,000 photographic objects.

"These magnificent photographs add immensely to the Carter's world-renowned collection," says John Rohrbach, the Carter's associate curator of photographs. "The Southworth and Hawes photographs represent some of the most significant and beautiful daguerreotypes to come onto the market in decades. They show the work of two of the leading artists of the period at the top of their form. The Stieglitz photographs allow us for the first time to represent all facets of this important artist's career, adding key dimension to our extensive modernist holdings. And over the last three decades, Robert Adams has been one of the most provocative and influential photographers of the western landscape."

Although closed for expansion since August 1999, the Carter during this time added significantly to all areas of its collection, including paintings, sculpture and works on paper. A selection of these photography acquisitions, as well as many other new works, will be on view at the Carter when it reopens on Sunday, October 21, 2001, following its two-year, $39 million expansion. The new building will have three times the exhibition space as before, including almost 4,000 square feet of photography galleries.

The Carter's photography collection blends historical and artistic masterpieces with key artist archives. Today, the museum owns a remarkable array of photographic works that range from one of the earliest photographs made in the United States to digitally rendered prints created this past year. Through the careful acquisition of individual masterpieces and collections by photographers as diverse as Karl Struss (1886--1981) and Eliot Porter (1901--1990), the museum can now chart the history of photography in the United States from 1840 to the present day with the best of the medium.

"The Carter is committed to collecting and exhibiting the finest examples of American art," says Barbara McCandless, Amon Carter Museum curator of photographs. "These new photography acquisitions are perfect illustrations of our dedication to quality."

Southworth and Hawes Acquisitions (two whole-plate daguerreotypes):

  • "Two Women Posed with a Chair," ca. 1850
  • "Edward Hawes, Asleep, With One Arm Raised," ca. 1850

Albert Southworth and Josiah Hawes were arguably the finest American daguerreotypists, whose best works carry unusual tonal richness and emotional immediacy. Top quality examples of their work rarely come on the market, and fine whole-plates like these had not been seen on the public market for at least 30 years when the Carter was given the opportunity to acquire them. These two plates are stunning additions to the collection and are important examples of the beginnings of photography.

Southworth and Hawes formed a partnership in 1843, four years after the invention of photography, and ran a Boston studio together until 1862. Regarded at the time as masters of their art, they attracted many of Boston's elite to their studio. Unlike many of their competitors, they took pride in operating the camera themselves. Their best plates, like the two acquired by the Carter, have an unusual clarity and extensive range of tones, the result of the artists' innovative lighting techniques and practice of electroplating an extra layer of silver to the plate.

"Two Women Posed with a Chair" is a classic Southworth and Hawes portrait. Based on the compositional rhetoric of American antebellum portraiture, the image offers ample evidence of how photography, even in its earliest years, could be elevated to the level of art. Southworth and Hawes prided themselves in achieving a delicate play of light, form and texture that was both realistic and natural. The two elegantly attired women in this portrait present a relaxed though still properly formal pose that is made even more beautiful by the scene's Rembrandtesque lighting.

By contrast, "Edward Hawes, Asleep, With One Arm Raised" symbolizes photography's break from the other arts. Not only is this endearing portrait of Joseph Hawes' son extremely realistic, it also has an innovative snapshot-like informality, as if the photograph were taken yesterday.

Alfred Stieglitz Acquisitions:

  • "Music: A Sequence of Ten Cloud Photographs, No. I," Palladium print, 1922
  • "From the Shelton, Looking West" [Radio City], Gelatin silver print, 1935
  • "Katharine N. Rhoades," Platinum print, 1915
  • "Katharine N. Rhoades," Palladium print, 1915, printed early 1920s
  • "Equivalent," Gelatin silver print, 1923, printed 1926
    *"Equivalent," Gelatin silver print, 1929
  • "Equivalent," Gelatin silver print, 1920s
  • "Equivalent," Gelatin silver print, 1920s, Gift of Doris Bry
  • "Charles Demuth," Gelatin silver print, 1923, Gift of Doris Bry
  • "Poplar Trees, Lake George," Gelatin silver print, 1932, Gift of Doris Bry

These acquisitions are outstanding prints of important Stieglitz photographs, many of which the artist originally gave to his wife, Georgia O'Keeffe. They enhance the Carter's already impressive holdings of modernist paintings and photographs by Stieglitz Circle artists, including O'Keeffe, Marsden Hartley, Arthur Dove, John Marin, Charles Demuth, Edward Steichen and Paul Strand.

"Music No. I" is a rare palladium print that Stieglitz created in 1922 at his family's summer home in Lake George, N.Y. With its stormy sky and house nestled in a forested landscape, the photograph eloquently recalls the Hudson River landscape paintings of Thomas Cole and Frederic Church. The first in an extended series of cloud studies that Stieglitz created through the 1920s, "Music No. I" sets the foundation for his later cloud photographs, wherein he turned his camera fully to the sky. The Carter also has acquired four of these subsequent cloud studies that Stieglitz titled "Equivalents." When first shown in New York, these prints were acclaimed for Stieglitz's ability to transform such a simple subject into highly expressive achievements.

"From the Shelton, Looking West" graphically symbolizes Stieglitz's longstanding practice of photographing the changing New York City skyline. This photograph reflects Stieglitz's fascination with the discoveries that come from careful, prolonged observation. He captured this view of Radio City Music Hall immersed in brilliant sunlight and deep shadow on a clear morning from his apartment window. The photograph is a magnificent play of light and form, transforming New York City into an oversized sculpture.

The two portraits of Katharine Rhoades offer an unusual opportunity to compare platinum and palladium versions of the same image. Stieglitz captured this portrait shortly after exhibiting Rhoades' paintings at his 291 gallery. Platinum and palladium printing epitomized the apex of photography among serious fine art photographers in the first two decades of the 20th century. The two prints acquired by the Carter vividly reveal the distinct characteristics of the two metals. Whereas in the platinum print Rhoades seems to float ethereally before the camera, in the palladium print one feels her physical presence. The first print is more poetic; the second evokes reality.

Doris Bry, Georgia O'Keeffe's assistant from 1947 through the mid-1970s, has graciously donated three vintage photographs by Stieglitz to the Carter. One of them, "Charles Demuth," reflects Stieglitz's proclivity for photographing his artistic and literary cohorts. Demuth (1883--1935) was a well-known painter and bon vivant who had innovatively begun to adapt the flattened planes of cubism to his paintings of vernacular American architecture when Stieglitz created this compelling portrait. He was in the second year of treatment for diabetes, and the photograph was actually shot in the hospital. Stieglitz's image at once captures both the painter's dandy-like personality and the exhaustion brought on by his intense diet and insulin regime.

"Poplar Trees, Lake George," like "Music No. I," reflects Stieglitz's fascination through the 1920s and 1930s with the landscape around his Lake George property. A stand of poplar trees down the hill from his family's house provided one of his favorite subjects in the early 1930s. The dying tree taking up most of the image, he once explained, represented the current state of his relationship with O'Keeffe, while the living tree along the right edge represented his new friend, Dorothy Norman. At the time, he was struggling to balance his intense infatuation with Norman with his continuing love for O'Keeffe.

Robert Adams Acquisitions:

Over the past two years, the Carter has acquired a number of photographs by the influential contemporary artist Robert Adams, who has been creating striking images of the West for more than 30 years. By focusing on the commonplace, rather than the unusual or grand, and looking at the settled landscape as often as open spaces, he has challenged us to take a fresh look at our surroundings.

"Community Methodist Church, Bowen, 1908" (ca. 1954) comes from one of Adams' earliest projects. He initially sought to draw artistic attention to the fast disappearing remnants of Colorado's early communities. Over five years he crisscrossed his home state to produce photographs that would eventually become his book White Churches of the Plains (1970). He found this well-cared-for church situated behind a grove of poplar and cottonwood trees.

"Colorado Springs, Colorado," (1968, printed 1995) reflects Adams' late-1960s decision to heed famed photographer Dorothea Lange's call to document contemporary American culture with an ethical purpose. Disturbed by the rapid development overtaking his home state, he began to photograph the myriad new highways, malls and tract houses that were being built along Colorado's Front Range. These images helped initiate a fundamental transformation in the way that fine art photographers have come to depict the American West. While Adams' main goal in creating this image was to reflect the isolation and emotional emptiness engendered by these developments, he also made this photograph because he loved the scene's light.

Adams' works will be featured in one of the Carter's reopening photography exhibitions, entitled "Robert Adams: True West." This 50-print exhibition, drawn from the Amon Carter Museum's collection, surveys Adams' 30-year career. Starting with his attentive depictions of the Hispanic architecture of southern Colorado and old church buildings scattered across the plains, the show shifts to the photographer's challenging views of contemporary urban growth and culminates with his striking visions of the open land. Seen together, these works follow the photographer's ongoing exploration of what it means to live in today's West.

Other Opening Photography Exhibitions:

"Masterworks of American Photography," October 21, 2001--March 3, 2002

Featuring selections from the Amon Carter Museum's holdings of American photography-one of the most important such collections in the United States-this rotating exhibition is arranged chronologically. Spanning the medium's history from the 1840s to the present, the museum's photography collection encompasses almost a quarter of a million works, including 30,000 exhibition-quality prints that range across the boundaries of history and fine art. With strengths in depictions of the American West, soft-focus pictorialism, and modernism, this ongoing exhibition illustrates the vital role photography has played, and continues to play, in the development and perpetuation of an American art tradition.

"Laura Gilpin and Eliot Porter in New Mexico," October 21, 2001--March 31, 2002

Laura Gilpin (1891--1979) and Eliot Porter (1901--1990) were contemporaries, colleagues, and, for more than thirty years, neighbors in their adopted state of New Mexico. Both photographers bequeathed their entire archives to the Amon Carter Museum, and these vast collections form the basis for continuing research and exhibitions. This first installation in the museum's new photography galleries presents a sampling of the images produced by these two masters in New Mexico.

"Avedon's American West," October 21, 2001--March 31, 2002

From 1979 to 1985, renowned portrait, reportage and fashion photographer Richard Avedon photographed ordinary people in the American West while under contract to the Amon Carter Museum. More an evocative expression of the photographer's responses than an objective document of the West, the resulting exhibition and publication, In the American West: Photographs by Richard Avedon (1985), challenged the nature of traditional portraiture and methods of interpreting the modern West. This is the first time since 1985 that a group of these larger-than-life-size images has been exhibited at the museum.

"Common Ground: Settling Colorado," October 21, 2001--March 31, 2002

In this exhibition 19 images from the Amon Carter Museum's historic photographic collections sample the visual diversity of Colorado's burgeoning settlement in the aftermath of the 1858 "Pikes Peak Gold Rush." The state's explosive growth during these years was chronicled by both professional photographers, like William Henry Jackson, and amateur picture makers, who recorded events, technological and manufacturing feats, geological formations and the ever-expanding settlement of the state. This photographic evidence not only celebrates Colorado's sublime landscape but also the excitement and leisure of the tourist trade that established Colorado as a symbol of the West.

About the Amon Carter Museum

Through the generosity of Amon G. Carter (1879--1955), the museum opened in 1961 to house his collection of approximately 400 paintings and sculptures by Frederic Remington and Charles M. Russell. The collection has since grown to almost 250,000 works of American art, including masterpieces in painting, sculpture, photography and works on paper by leading artists of the 19th and 20th centuries. The photography collection alone is one of the largest and most significant in the country. As a whole, the Carter's collection presents a vivid panorama of American art and culture from 1825 to 1950.

The museum's new building will have three times the exhibition space as before, allowing four times the amount of artworks to be on view. The trademark façade and 19,000 square feet of architect Philip Johnson's original 1961 structure remain intact, while additions from 1964 and 1975 have been replaced with the new construction. The 95-year-old Johnson and his firm, Philip Johnson/Alan Ritchie Architects, designed the Carter expansion, resulting in what Johnson has called "by far the best building plan we have ever done." Thus, the architecture of the museum, both old and new, spans the career of one of the world's most distinguished architects.

The addition, covered in a rare brown granite that was quarried in Saudi Arabia and fabricated in Italy, was designed as an understated backdrop for the 1961 building, complementing its exterior of creamy Texas shellstone. The result is a stunning yet functional structure of timeless design that provides expansive areas not only for the display and storage of the collection but also for research, education, membership activities and other programs.

For more information about the Amon Carter Museum or to receive a Reopening Media Kit, please call Carol Noel, public relations coordinator, at 817.738.1933, ext. 5066, or e-mail carol.noel@cartermuseum.org.