Posts Tagged ‘daguerreotypists

15
Aug
13

Exhibition: ‘Photographic Wonders: American Daguerreotypes from The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art’ at the Taft Museum of Art, Cincinnati

Exhibition dates: 17th May – 25th August 2013

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I love the word “occupationals” to describe portraits of individuals with the hallmarks of their trade.

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Many thankx to the Taft Museum of Art for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

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Unknown Maker (American) 'Three Lively Women' c. 1850

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Unknown Maker (American)
Three Lively Women
c. 1850
Daguerreotype, quarter plate
3 ¼ x 4 ¼ inches
The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Gift of Hallmark Cards, Inc.,
© Nelson Gallery Foundation

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Thomas Easterly (American, 1809-1882) 'Man with Elephant' c. 1850

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Thomas Easterly (American, 1809-1882)
Man with Elephant
c. 1850
Daguerreotype, quarter plate
3 ¼ x 4 ¼ inches
The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Gift of Hallmark Cards, Inc.,
© Nelson Gallery Foundation

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A sometime calligrapher and writing teacher, Vermont-born Thomas Martin Easterly (b. 1809 Guilford, Vermont, d. 1882) learned the daguerreotype process in New York between 1841 and 1844, possibly from Charles and Richard Meade. In 1844 Easterly sailed from New York City to New Orleans, where he made photographs before returning to Vermont the following year. He did not remain for long: by October, he had entered into a daguerreotype studio partnership in Iowa. He and his partner operated as traveling photographers working throughout Iowa and Missouri for several years. Some scholars have credited Easterly with making the first photographs of Plains Indians.

After the dissolution of the partnership, Easterly moved to Saint Louis and took over a studio in 1848. He had a successful career for ten years, but his loyalty to the daguerreotype process after the introduction of the ambrotype, tintype, and paper photograph processes caused his business to falter. By 1860 Easterly had begun to sell farm implements in addition to continuing his daguerreotype practice. (Text from the J. Paul Getty Museum website)

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Attributed to Ezekiel Hawkins (American, 1808-1862) 'The Jacob Strader at Wharf, Cincinnati' c. 1853

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Attributed to Ezekiel Hawkins (American, 1808-1862)
The Jacob Strader at Wharf, Cincinnati
c. 1853
Daguerreotype, half plate
4 ½ x 5 ½ inches
The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Gift of Hallmark Cards, Inc.,
© Nelson Gallery Foundation

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This daguerreotype of the side-wheel packet Jacob Strader was taken at the Cincinnati boatyard where she was built in 1853. Owned by the U.S. Mail Line Co., this steamboat was named to honor Jacob Strader, the company’s first ,president. The Jacob Strader ran regularly between Cincinnati and Louisville, however during the Civil War, because her large cabin contained 310 berths, she was frequently used to transport sick and wounded soldiers. This boat was dismantled in 1866.
As steamboats replaced flatboats and keelboats as the major mode of river transportation, travel along the Ohio River became faster and easier. By the middle of the nineteenth century, more than 3,000 steamboats arrived each year at the port of Cincinnati. The city’s prominent location along the river contributed to its rapid growth, and by 1850 Cincinnati became the sixth largest city in the country. The development of railroads slowly led to the decline of steamboats. They continued to operate on the Ohio River, but their numbers dwindled. (Text from the Ohio Memory Collection website)

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Unknown Maker (American) 'A Showing of Daguerreotypes' c. 1850

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Unknown Maker (American)
A Showing of Daguerreotypes
c. 1850
Daguerreotype, quarter plate
3 ¼ x 4 ¼ inches
The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Gift of Hallmark Cards, Inc.,
© Nelson Gallery Foundation

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Unknown Maker (American) 'Comic Dentist' c. 1850

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Unknown Maker (American)
Comic Dentist
c. 1850
Daguerreotype, sixth plate
3 ¼ x 2 ¾ inches
The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Gift of Hallmark Cards, Inc.,
© Nelson Gallery Foundation

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American Daguerreotypes from The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, on display May 17 – Aug. 25, features 82 astonishing images of life in 19th-century America. The exhibition includes rare images of such well-known Americans as Harriet Beecher Stowe, Frederick Douglass, and Tom Thumb.

By the middle of the 19th century, Cincinnati was the Queen City of the West. A transportation hub, the city was home to industry, art, and even a professional baseball team. Though there are numerous written accounts of life in the big city at this time, we are also fortunate to have images of this era because of the earliest “photographic” works, known as daguerreotypes. In 1839 the American public first encountered this exciting new invention. By 1843, daguerreotypists had set up shop in every major city in the United States. Visitors to the Taft will have the opportunity to view these remarkable works. This exhibition features about 90 daguerreotypes of exceptional quality and variety, with the high degree of resolution typical of these rare, one-of-a-kind photographs. Works by both famed and anonymous makers provide a window into mid-19th-century America: its occupations, trades, urban and rural scenery, and racial and ethnic diversity.

In 1839 the American public encountered the exciting new invention of photography in its earliest form, the daguerreotype. Together, these two Taft exhibitions present an in-depth look at the art of early photography, as well as candid, touching, and sometimes humorous image of life in mid-19th century America and Cincinnati. A daguerreotype is a unique image crafted on a silvered copper plate, a surface that acts like a mirror. While sometimes hard to view, this exhibition presents the works under perfect lighting conditions. The earliest daguerreotypes required exposures of up to thirty minutes. Within a few years, however, portraits could be made in about ten to twenty seconds.

Among the exceptional daguerreotypes in Photographic Wonders are post-mortem images (portraits taken after death) that tell sorrowful stories, while The Comic Dentist and other humorous subjects still amuse today’s audiences. Portraits of individuals with the hallmarks of their trade (called occupationals), including a blacksmith with his tools, a woman ironing, and a clown in costume, show Americans’ pride in their work. Outdoor scenes reveal quaint towns and growing cities, while landscapes feature popular tourist destinations. The wide range of subjects offers something for every interest. The exhibited works in Photographic Wonders are part of an acclaimed collection that Hallmark Cards, Inc., donated in 2005 to The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.

The choice examples selected for the Taft date from about 1840 to about 1860, while Nicholas Longworth and his family lived in the historic house that is now the Taft Museum of Art. Local Exposures, a captivating “snapshot” of life in Cincinnati in the 1800s, will delight Cincinnati history enthusiasts. A rarely exhibited Cincinnati streetscape reveals what the city looked like in 1848, while business cards and advertisements for daguerreotype studios show the prominence of the industry in Cincinnati.

“These were the first photographs. Prior to this the only way you could preserve your image was through a painting or sketch. Imagine seeing yourself in a photograph for the first time – it would seem like magic, and that’s exactly the first reaction people had,” says installing curator, Tamera Muente. Taft Museum of Art Director/CEO, Deborah Emont Scott, says, “It’s an amazing experience to view these precious, one-of-a-kind photographs. The images are small and the viewing experience is an intimate one – you step back in time and share a rare mid-19th-century moment with the sitter.”

Press release from the Taft Museum of Art website

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William C. North (American, 1814-1890) 'The Fisherman' c. 1850

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William C. North (American, 1814-1890)
The Fisherman
c. 1850
Daguerreotype, half plate
5 ½ x 4 ½ inches
The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Gift of Hallmark Cards, Inc.,
© Nelson Gallery Foundation

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Unknown Maker (American) 'Clown' c. 1850-55

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Unknown Maker (American)
Clown
c. 1850-55
Daguerreotype, sixth plate
2 ¼ x 2 ¾ inches
The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Gift of Hallmark Cards, Inc.,
© Nelson Gallery Foundation

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Unknown Maker (American) 'Tightrope Walker' c. 1855

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Unknown Maker (American)
Tightrope Walker
c. 1855
Daguerreotype, half plate
5 ½ x 4 ½ inches
The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Gift of Hallmark Cards, Inc.,
© Nelson Gallery Foundation

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Unknown Maker (American) 'Tom Thumb and his Mother' c. 1850-55

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Unknown Maker (American)
Tom Thumb and his Mother
c. 1850-55
Daguerreotype, quarter plate
4 ¼ x 3 ¼ inches
The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Gift of Hallmark Cards, Inc.,
© Nelson Gallery Foundation

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General Tom Thumb was the stage name of Charles Sherwood Stratton (January 4, 1838 – July 15, 1883), a little person who achieved great fame under circus pioneer P.T. Barnum.

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Unknown Maker (American) 'Woman Ironing' c. 1850-55

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Unknown Maker (American)
Woman Ironing
c. 1850-55
Daguerreotype, sixth plate
3 ¼ x 2 ¾ inches
The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Gift of Hallmark Cards, Inc.,
© Nelson Gallery Foundation

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Unknown Maker (American) 'Profile Portrait of Frederick Douglass' c. 1858

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Unknown Maker (American)
Profile Portrait of Frederick Douglass
c. 1858
Daguerreotype, sixth plate
3 ¼ x 2 ¾ inches
The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Gift of Hallmark Cards, Inc.,
© Nelson Gallery Foundation

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Frederick Douglass (born Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey, c. February 1818 – February 20, 1895) was an African American social reformer, orator, writer and statesman. After escaping from slavery, he became a leader of the abolitionist movement, gaining note for his dazzling oratory and incisive antislavery writing. He stood as a living counter-example to slaveholders’ arguments that slaves did not have the intellectual capacity to function as independent American citizens. Many Northerners also found it hard to believe that such a great orator had been a slave.

Douglass wrote several autobiographies, eloquently describing his experiences in slavery in his 1845 autobiography, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, which became influential in its support for abolition. He wrote two more autobiographies, with his last, Life and Times of Frederick Douglass, published in 1881 and covering events through and after the Civil War. After the Civil War, Douglass remained active in the United States’ struggle to reach its potential as a “land of the free”. Douglass actively supported women’s suffrage. Without his approval, he became the first African American nominated for Vice President of the United States as the running mate of Victoria Woodhull on the impracticable and small Equal Rights Party ticket. Douglass held multiple public offices.

Douglass was a firm believer in the equality of all people, whether black, female, Native American, or recent immigrant, famously quoted as saying, “I would unite with anybody to do right and with nobody to do wrong.” (Text from Wikipedia)

“I have often been asked, how I felt when first I found myself on free soil. And my readers may share the same curiosity. There is scarcely anything in my experience about which I could not give a more satisfactory answer. A new world had opened upon me. If life is more than breath, and the ‘quick round of blood,’ I lived more in one day than in a year of my slave life. It was a time of joyous excitement which words can but tamely describe. In a letter written to a friend soon after reaching New York, I said: ‘I felt as one might feel upon escape from a den of hungry lions.’ Anguish and grief, like darkness and rain, may be depicted; but gladness and joy, like the rainbow, defy the skill of pen or pencil.”

Douglass, Frederick. Life and Times of Frederick Douglass. 1882, p. 170.

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Taft Museum of Art
316 Pike Street at the east end of Fourth Street
across from Lytle Park, in downtown Cincinnati

Opening hours:
Wednesday-Friday, 11 am – 4 pm
Saturday and Sunday, 11 am – 5 pm

Taft Museum of Art website

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes the Art Blart blog which reviews exhibitions in Melbourne, Australia and posts exhibitions from around the world. He has a Dr of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne and is currently studying a Master of Art Curatorship at The University of Melbourne.

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