Thursday, October 14, 2010

TruthBeauty: Pictorialism & the Photograph as Art, 1845–1945 at the Phillips

One evening after work I was waiting for a train at the Dupont Circle station, and a billboard advertising an upcoming exhibition at The Phillips Collection caught my eye: TruthBeauty: Pictorialism and the Photograph as Art, 1845–1945. As a member of The Phillips, I enjoy free admission to special exhibitions and events, and can also bring a friend or two. On Thursdays the museum is open until 8:30pm, so I invited Wanchuk and Sam to join me this evening for a lecture and the show itself.
The speaker was Dr. Alison Nordström who created and curated the original TruthBeauty exhibition when it first opened at the George Eastman House in 2009. She also edited a critically acclaimed book by the same tile as the exhibition. “It was the Pictorialists' core assertion that photography could be a vehicle for personal expression—rather than merely a factual description of the world around us—that is now widely accepted despite the changes in style and philosophy that have characterized the medium through its subsequent phases,” wrote Nordström, along with Eastman House archivist David Soures Wooters, in the book's essay “Crafting the Art of the Photograph.”
Dr. Nordström's talk was great: engaging, informative, and featuring lots of photographs. Pictorialist movement sought to elevate photography from a merely mechanical tool documenting reality to an art form equal to painting and drawing. She talked a great deal about sophisticated photographic printing processes employed by Pictorialists to achieve the desired artistic effect, and she concluded by tracing fascinating connections between Japanese and European art: Pictorialists were clearly influenced by Ukiyo-e woodcuts and paintings—but their work, in turn, influenced the art of photography in Japan.
The exhibition comprises more than 100 amazing photographs drawn solely from the George Eastman House collection and features works of both celebrated photographers, such as Edward Steichen, Alfred Stieglitz, Alvin Langdon Coburn, and lesser known ones, such as Russian-born Elias Goldensky.
Alvin Langdon Coburn (1882–1966)
Fifth Avenue from the St. Regis, ca. 1905
Alfred Stieglitz (1864–1946)
Reflections, Night-New York, 1896

Peter Henry Emerson (1856–1936)
Cantley: Wherries Waiting for the Turn of the Tide, c. 1884
Alvin Langdon Coburn (1882–1966)
Wapping, London, 1910
TruthBeauty and Coburn and the Photographic Portfolio complementary exhibition are both open until January 9, 2011.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the invitation. The whole group enjoyed the exhibit and the talk