Gordon Parks. Kansas. 1950. The Baltimore Museum of Art: Purchase with a grant from the Florsheim Art Fund and with matching funds from Roger M. Dalsheimer, Baltimore. BMA 1998.97. Courtesy of and © The Gordon Parks Foundation
Gordon Parks. Kansas. 1950. The Baltimore Museum of Art: Purchase with a grant from the Florsheim Art Fund and with matching funds from Roger M. Dalsheimer, Baltimore. BMA 1998.97. Courtesy of and © The Gordon Parks Foundation

Exhibition showcases ground-breaking modern photography from 1900-1960

BALTIMORE, MD (February 21, 2008)—The Baltimore Museum of Art presents a major exhibition of approximately 150 rarely shown vintage prints by some of the world’s best known 20th century photographers in Looking through the Lens: Photography 19001960. On view March 16–June 8, 2008, the exhibition features iconic works by European and American artists such as Man Ray, Alfred Stieglitz, Edward Weston, Paul Strand, Dorothea Lange, Gordon Parks, and Harry Callahan. Organized thematically, these works showcase the impressive range and depth of the Museum’s collection while illuminating some of the most important achievements in the history of the medium. Admission to Looking through the Lens is free. This exhibition is generously sponsored by PNC Foundation.

“This is a rare opportunity to discover spell-binding images from the most pivotal period in photography, when it became fully recognized as an art form.” said BMA Director Doreen Bolger. “I am certain these memorable works of art will captivate and inspire new audiences, just as they did when they were first created.”

Looking through the Lens begins with the influential artist Alfred Stieglitz and his ground-breaking journal Camera Work (1903–17), which published many of the greatest photos taken at the turn of the century. Examples include early Pictorialist-style photogravures and color halftones by Alvin Langdon Coburn, Gertrude Käsebier, and Edward Steichen that illustrate their romantic soft-focus photography aesthetic. These works are juxtaposed with Steiglitz’s own increasingly crisp shots of Manhattan skyscrapers, portraits of Georgia O’Keeffe, and stunning compositions taken at Lake George.

The years between the wars brought an explosion in experimental photography with brilliant images that embraced unusual viewpoints like Max Burchartz’s Lotte’s Eye (c. 1928) or showed the influence of industry’s abstract forms such as Paul Strand’s Lathe Head (1923). Edward Weston focused on structural clarity and simplicity with his carefully lit shells and peppers set against plain backgrounds, while artists Aleksandr Rodchenko and Raoul Ubac experimented with collage. A large section dedicated to the Surrealist movement features Man Ray’s captivating Le Violon d’Ingres (1924), as well as his photograms and experiments with solarization. Salvador Dalí’s Study for ‘Dream of Venus,’ (1939), created with Vogue photographer Horst P. Horst, shows the cross-fertilization between fashion/advertising, film, and art. These works are complemented by Edward Steichen’s images of movie stars Charlie Chaplin, Greta Garbo, and Anna May Wong; and Paul Outerbridge’s vivid carbro color prints of cropped nudes and festive still lifes.

Compelling documentary photographs heightened awareness of the social and physical realities of society in the late 1930s—from Farm Security Administration images by Dorothea Lange and Walker Evans that reveal the hardships faced by migrant farmers in California and small-town life in the South to Berenice Abbott and Aaron Siskind’s ambitious views of New York City neighborhoods. The impact of photojournalism is seen in works commissioned for Life magazine: Margaret Bourke-White’s images of the upper, middle, and lower classes in Muncie, Indiana; Robert Capa’s shots of soldiers involved in the Sino-Japanese War; and Gordon Parks’ portrait of Harlem gang leader Red Jackson.

Looking through the Lens concludes with post-war American works. New York School photographers Robert Frank, Louis Faurer, and William Klein used inconspicuous cameras and available light to capture fleeting moments encountered in the street—sidewalk bystanders, Horn & Hardart automats, and out-of-focus adolescents. Harry Callahan’s beautiful stark landscapes, nude studies of his wife Eleanor, and multiple-exposure compositions of Chicago demonstrate the new visual language developed by artists affiliated with the progressive Institute of Design in Chicago. These works anticipate new directions for photography in the second half of the century.

Looking through the Lens: Photography 1900–1960 is curated by BMA Associate Curator of Prints, Drawings & Photographs Rena Hoisington. The exhibition is generously sponsored by PNC.

Looking Now: BMA Digital Photography Project
Become a part of Looking through the Lens: Photography 19001960 by creating digital images inspired by the show—then come back to see which are selected for the exhibition’s digital gallery. Everyone is invited to respond to the works in the exhibition and the thematic questions posted on artbma.org by submitting digital images through the BMA’s web site beginning March 16. Whether you embrace Surrealism or street photography, the best of these images will be presented in the exhibition’s digital gallery beginning in April.

You can also see how contemporary professional photographers interpret the exhibition’s ideas with their own work. These photographers, chosen by the Looking Now advisory committee—artists Peter Bruun, Alex Castro, and Connie Imboden—will have images in the BMA’s digital gallery when the show opens in March, as well as in the April issue of Urbanite magazine. Also joining the digital gallery in April will be images created by teens involved in photographer Marshall Clarke’s Youthlight program. Founded in 2001, Youthlight is committed to engaging young people in using photography as a means of self-expression.

About the Baltimore Museum of Art

Founded in 1914, the Baltimore Museum of Art (BMA) inspires people of all ages and backgrounds through exhibitions, programs, and collections that tell an expansive story of art—challenging long-held narratives and embracing new voices. Our outstanding collection of more than 97,000 objects spans many eras and cultures and includes the world’s largest public holding of works by Henri Matisse; one of the nation’s finest collections of prints, drawings, and photographs; and a rapidly growing number of works by contemporary artists of diverse backgrounds. The museum is also distinguished by a neoclassical building designed by American architect John Russell Pope and two beautifully landscaped gardens featuring an array of modern and contemporary sculpture. The BMA is located three miles north of the Inner Harbor, adjacent to the main campus of Johns Hopkins University, and has a community branch at Lexington Market. General admission is free so that everyone can enjoy the power of art.

Download PDF

Press Contacts

For media in Baltimore:

Anne Brown
Baltimore Museum of Art
Senior Director of Communications

Sarah Pedroni
Baltimore Museum of Art
Communications Manager

For media outside Baltimore:

Alina Sumajin
PAVE Communications