Lynn Zelevansky, The Henry Heinz II Director of Carnegie Museum of Art
, announced today the promised gifts of six photographs and one glass plate negative from the collection of William Talbott Hillman. Five photographs are currently on loan to the museum for its groundbreaking exhibition Impressionism in a New Light: From Monet to Stieglitz, and will soon be joined by two additional, very rare images of Alice Liddell, taken by none other than Lewis Carroll.
Ranging from a pioneering 1845 salt print by David Octavius Hill to a 1915 early Modernist cityscape by Alfred Stieglitz, each of the objects represents, according to curator of photography Linda Benedict-Jones, an exceptionally important addition to the museums growing permanent collection of early photographs. Indeed, she says, they may pave the way for further collecting of iconic works by such recognized masters of the medium. Additionally, I've been a curator of photography for many years and I've never seen an original photograph made by Lewis Carroll." Liddell was, in fact, the inspiration for Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland; Carroll regaled Alice and her sisters, Lorina and Edith, with a fantastical tale of a girl who fell down a rabbit hole in 1862. Later that evening, he penned the complete story.
This promised gift includes:
David O. Hill, Scottish, 18021870, and Robert Adamson, Scottish, 18211848; John Hope Finlay, 1845, salt print
Hill and Adamson were the first to fully explore the potential of William Henry Fox Talbots invention of the negative-positive process in photography. Together they made compelling portraits in their outdoor studio in Edinburgh, Scotland, including this lovely image of young John Hope Finlay. It was made in 1845, just six years after the invention of photography, when exposure times were still quite long. Children who had a hard time standing still were a particular challenge to photographers of the period, so a child sleepingas in this portraitwas an ideal subject.
Roger Fenton, British, 18191869; The Princess Royal and Princess Alice, 1855, salt print
Fentons portrait of two princesses is a beautiful, warm-toned print that is unusually large for the 1850s. Enlargement was not feasible at that time, since commercially available electricity had not yet been invented, so the negative for this print would have been the same size as the resulting positive print. Both princesses wear stylish hats, and their pensive expressions are typical of photographs made in the 1850s.
Lewis Carroll (Charles Lutwidge Dodgson), British, 18321898, Alice Liddell as a Beggar Maid, 1858, albumen print
In The Beggar Maid we see a young Alice at age seven or eight who is dressed rather provocatively as she stands on one foot in front of an exterior garden wall. Carroll selected this costume, and may have suggested the pose, too, although the expression on Alices face is hers alone. She seems to exude self-confidence in this celebrated image.
Lewis Carroll (Charles Lutwidge Dodgson), British, 18321898, Alice with Garland, 1860, glass negative
Carroll did not make portraits for professional purposes, but for the pleasure that he derived from the entire process, which he taught himself. In Alice with Garland, he used the labor-intensive wet collodion technique to produce this glass negative. According to Carrolls diary entry, the length of exposure was 45 seconds, demonstrating that Alice Liddell was a patient sitter.
Julia Margaret Cameron, British, 18151879; Katie [Kate Keown], 1866, albumen print
Katie is a magnificent photographic portrait of a young girl in Victorian England. What is most remarkable is that Katies face, which fills the circular frame of the image, is nearly life size, something that was highly unusual for photographic portraits of the era. Careful viewing reveals movement in Katies eyes and a general softness of focus throughout the image that makes the young flesh seem palpable. Cameron consciously chose soft focus to create this hauntingly beautiful portrait of Kate Keown, one of her favorite young models.
Clarence H. White, American, 18711925; The Kiss, 1904, platinum print
Here we witness a scene of domestic bliss as a woman leans down to gently kiss her younger sister inside their home. White intentionally arranged soft lighting and soft focus to augment the tenderness of this precious moment.
Alfred Stieglitz, American, 18641946; View from 291, 1915, gelatin silver print
Stieglitzs View from 291 is a nighttime scene taken from the rear of his famous Pictorialist gallery at 291 Fifth Avenue. A new skyscraper fills the background, with several windows illuminated. More modest buildings are in the foreground, closer to where Stieglitz positioned his camera, while a clothesline full of white laundry is barely visible in the evening light. The image offers a striking contrast between the large buildings that are emerging as part of New Yorks new skyline and the human-scaled dwellings where clothespins are still in use.
Mr. Hillman's promised gift will play a role in Carnegie Museum of Art director Lynn Zelevansky's mission to acquire "destination works" that lure viewers with special interests in different media to the museums galleries and complement other works in its collection. As early as 1904, the museum hosted Alfred Stieglitz's Photo-Secession exhibition, placing it among the first institutions in the United States to recognize photography as an art form.
"These exquisite vintage prints were made by the most significant image-makers in the history of photography," Benedict-Jones says. "Carroll was a skillful photographer, and his photographs capture the child who inspired what is arguably the most famous children's story of all time. Hill and Adamson were the first to make creative use of the salt print; Roger Fentons portrait of princesses reveals how Queen Victoria accepted photography; Julia Margaret Camerons life-size portrait of Kate Keown indicates her willingness to break new ground with her camera; Clarence Whites warm-toned platinum photograph of sisters kissing is a tour de force of the Pictorialist era; and Alfred Stieglitzs nighttime view of New York skyscrapers is one of his most cherished vintage prints."
William Talbott Hillman is the director of Affirmation Arts in New York, a collector, an artist, and a longtime friend of Carnegie Museum of Art. Mr. Hillman's generous support of the museum includes the establishment of the William T. Hillman Fund for Photography in 2006, which supports exhibitions, acquisitions, and other photography-related initiatives. Additionally, he has supported major exhibitions, including Impressionism in a New Light: From Monet to Stieglitz, and Life on Mars, the 2008 Carnegie International.
Five of the seven promised gifts are currently on view in Impressionism in a New Light: From Monet to Stieglitz, which closes on August 26, 2012. The works by Lewis Carroll are expected to join them mid-July 2012.