Posts Tagged ‘Reviewing Stand in Front of the Executive Mansion

06
Mar
16

Photography: Alexander Gardner: ‘Memories of the War. Illustrations of the Grand Review’ and Matthew Brady photographs of the Grand Review

23-24 May, 1865

Location
Pennsylvania Avenue, Northwest, Washington, D.C.

Participants

  • George Gordon Meade
    • Army of the Potomac
  • William T. Sherman
    • Army of the Tennessee
    • Army of Georgia

 

 

In this, the second of three consecutive postings on nineteenth century photography, I compare and contrast the photographs that Alexander Gardner and Mathew Brady took of the official celebrations that marked the close of the American Civil War: The Grand Review of the Armies held over two hot days in Washington, 23-24 May, 1865.

In the last post, Dark Fields of the Republic: Alexander Gardner Photographs, 1859-1872, we examined the establishment of the rivalry between Brady and Gardner. The latter had been assistant to Brady for many years including the first two years of the war, before setting up his own studio in Washington, only a few blocks from the studio of his former employer.

In this post we have a chance to compare the styles of the photographers side-by-side, an experience almost unique in the annals of early photography: two great photographers taking images of the same event, possibly at the same time (they could have been photographing on different days, it being a two day event). It is fascinating to compare the placement of the camera by each artist and the feeling that they wanted to convey in the representation of the event.

In the image Untitled [Presidential reviewing stand and mounted cavalry] (1865, below), Gardner places the camera at head high level and fills the foreground with a melee of swirling men on horses, the blurred movement of such belying the length of the exposure. In this photograph the Presidential reviewing stand beyond is of secondary importance for the photographer, compared to the atmosphere, the “air” that he creates with skirmish happening in front the camera.

By contrast, Brady positions his camera high up above the crowd looking down on the spectacle in his image Reviewing Stand in Front of the Executive Mansion, Washington, D.C., May, 1865 (below), layering his image with four separate delineations: the crowd in front which grounds the image; the blur of the soldiers, wonderfully previsualised by Brady using the length of his exposure; the bulk of the Reviewing Stand; and the trees and sky beyond.

There is no right or wrong here, for they are both strong images. For a feeling of atmosphere, the surging and swirling of horses, then the Gardner is most effective but for me, the Brady is the more successful image in imparting the magic and cultural significance of the event. The reviewing stand still has a strong presence but it is the sea of blurred bodies that carries you along with the marching armies.

We can compare another two camera positions used by both artists, this time as they photographed the armies as they marched down Pennsylvania Avenue. In all of Gardner’s photographs of this location his camera is obliquely offset to the avenue and slightly above the crowd so that we, the viewer, only get a glimpse of the Capitol building in the distance through the dust raised by the horses hooves. There is no vanishing point in these images and the oblique perspective allows Gardner to give the viewer a wonderful sense of the scale of the Review, as wagons stretch away into the distance, as bayonets flash in the sun. Imagine the smell of such a scene, of horseshit, of sweating men in thick uniforms, the crowd with umbrellas open to protect them from the heat of the May day sun.

By contrast, in Bady’s stereocard  and image Grand Review, Pennsylvannia Avenue, May, 1865 (both below), the artist positions his camera high up above the crowd with a view directly down Pennsylvania Avenue with the Capitol building clearly seen in the distance. In one image, Brady grounds his composition with the serried ranks of bystanders at the bottom of the image, while in the stereocard he allows the lines of advancing horses to lead the eye of the viewer back into the interior of the image. Again, there is no right or wrong to either approach and they both have elements to commend them. In this instance, I like the approach that Gardner has taken: the position of the camera is more intimate, and you really get a feeling of getting down and dirty in amongst the crowds at the event, viewing the bounteous strength of the army as it disappears into the hazy distance.

In general, having extensively viewed the photographs of each artist of this event, I can say that Mathew Brady seems to be the more inventive of the two artists. In the last two photographs in the posting, Brady’s Untitled [Presidential reviewing stand, Washington, D.C., May, 1865] (below) he does something that Gardner never did: photograph the reviewing stand from the reverse angle (as the cavalry march blearily away); and photograph the reviewing stand in the dying light, after the parade was over for the day. This is the most poignant image, focusing as it does on the empty wooden stands and the tree in front of it, not the reviewing stand. Brady could have easily moved further up the road but he pulls back and lets our eyes play over the empty scene.

Of course there is always a danger to presume that these differences have always been there. One photographer may have bitterly forced the other into taking a particular vantage point, considering that they may have been within shouting distance of each other. However, it is evident these two artists had a clear opinion of where history was going and only got reinforcement from their subject matter on these opinions. Today, we live in murky times – we can see everywhere – but nothing can be trusted in its appearance… it is a swamp. How different the “view” seemed to Brady and Gardner (mankind / war / peace / great men / great ideas) compared to the nexus in which we live today.

.
Finally, I note that other cultural markers of significance can be seen in one of Brady’s photographs. These are the names of the battles that appear on the canopy of the Presidential reviewing stand (see Reviewing Stand in Front of the Executive Mansion, Washington, D.C., May, 1865, details below).

Elsevime (?)
Savannah
Vicksburg
Fort Donelson
Shiloh
Resaca
… River!
South Mountain
Bentonville
Pea Ridge
Stone River

.
These are not the names of the major battles that we remember as being the most important and mythical today: Gettysburg, Bull Run, Antietam, Atlanta. I was fascinated by these battles appearing on the Presidential Reviewing Stand, so I have included research and colour lithographs on each battle. At the time these engagements were obviously thought worthy of high honour even as now they fade from our memory.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

 

 

 

The Grand Review of the Armies: Twelve Alexander Gardner Albumens

“Beginning with the surrender of Gen. Robert E. Lee and his Army of Northern Virginia on April 9, 1865, the Civil War was coming to an end. Two and a half weeks later, on April 26, Gen. Joseph E. Johnston surrendered his Army of Tennessee to Gen. William T. Sherman. On May 10, President Andrew Johnson declared that armed resistance had essentially come to an end. The very same day down in Georgia, Confederate President Jefferson Davis, on the run since early April, was captured. As the conflict was winding down, the armies in the field were making their way back to the nation’s capital which was still in mourning from the death of President Lincoln one month earlier. President Johnson felt a change was needed in Washington and ordered a grand military parade through the streets.

Three armies – the Army of the Potomac, the Army of the Tennessee, and the Army of Georgia – participated in the Grand Review of the Armies on May 23 and 24, 1865, as thousands lined the streets. Prominent Washington photographer, Alexander Gardner, formerly the staff photographer for the Army of the Potomac under Gen. George B. McClellan, documented the procession.

Each photograph measures 3.75″ x 2.75″ and is affixed to an Alexander Gardner mount to an overall size of 9.25″ x 7.75”. Each photograph is surrounded by an ornate border, below which is printed: “Memories of the War. Illustrations of the Grand Review. Washington, D.C., May 23 and 24, 1865.” Five of the images show the review stand of the president, adorned in patriotic décor, where President Johnson, politicians, and prominent citizens of Washington sat to watch the parade. An additional five images show the soldiers, consisting of cavalry, infantry, and a wagon train, headed up Pennsylvania Avenue (in two of the photographs, the dome of the Capitol Building can be seen at the end of the street). The remaining two images show soldiers on the march and civilians in wagons and on horseback moving down unidentified streets.

Within a week of the review, the armies of the Republic began to disband and the men began their return home.”

Text from the Heritage Auctions website

 

Mathew B. Brady. 'Untitled [Spectators massing for the Grand Review of the Armies, 23-24 May 1865, at the side of the crepe-draped U.S. Capitol, flag at half mast following the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln]' 1865

 

Mathew B. Brady (born Lake George, NY 1823 – died New York City 1896)
Untitled [Spectators massing for the Grand Review of the Armies, 23-24 May 1865, at the side of the crepe-draped U.S. Capitol, flag at half mast following the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln]
1865

 

Alexander Gardner: 'Memories of the War. Illustrations of the Grand Review' 1865

Alexander Gardner: 'Memories of the War. Illustrations of the Grand Review' 1865

Alexander Gardner: 'Memories of the War. Illustrations of the Grand Review' 1865

 

Alexander Gardner
Untitled [Presidential reviewing stand] (and detail)
From the folio Memories of the War. Illustrations of the Grand Review.
1865
3.75″ x 2.75″
Albumen photograph on card

 

 

A Grand Review, Presidential Reviewing Stand

The Presidential Reviewing stand in front of the White House on Pennsylvania Avenue during the Grand Review of the victorious Union armies in Washington, DC, May 23 and 24 of 1865. It is occupied by President Andrew Johnson and his cabinet, Generals Ulysses S. Grant and William T. Sherman and other military officers. President Johnson and General Grant are clearly visible seated next to each other in the front row.

 

Alexander Gardner: 'Memories of the War. Illustrations of the Grand Review' 1865

Alexander Gardner: 'Memories of the War. Illustrations of the Grand Review' 1865

Alexander Gardner: 'Memories of the War. Illustrations of the Grand Review' 1865

 

Alexander Gardner
Untitled [Presidential reviewing stand and mounted cavalry] (and detail)
From the folio Memories of the War. Illustrations of the Grand Review.
1865
3.75″ x 2.75″
Albumen photograph on card

 

Mathew B. Brady. 'Reviewing Stand in Front of the Executive Mansion, Washington, D.C., May, 1865' 1865, printed early 1880s

 

Mathew B. Brady (born Lake George, NY 1823 – died New York City 1896)
Reviewing Stand in Front of the Executive Mansion, Washington, D.C., May, 1865
1865, printed early 1880s
Albumen silver print
Sheet and image: 6 1/2 x 9 in. (16.5 x 22.9 cm)
Smithsonian American Art Museum

 

Mathew B. Brady. 'Reviewing Stand in Front of the Executive Mansion, Washington, D.C., May, 1865' 1865

 

Mathew B. Brady (born Lake George, NY 1823 – died New York City 1896)
Reviewing Stand in Front of the Executive Mansion, Washington, D.C., May, 1865
1865, printed early 1880s
Albumen silver print
Library of Congress Prints and Photographs

 

Mathew B. Brady. 'Reviewing Stand in Front of the Executive Mansion, Washington, D.C., May, 1865' 1865 (detail)

Mathew B. Brady. 'Reviewing Stand in Front of the Executive Mansion, Washington, D.C., May, 1865' 1865 (detail)

Mathew B. Brady. 'Reviewing Stand in Front of the Executive Mansion, Washington, D.C., May, 1865' 1865 (detail)

 

Mathew B. Brady (born Lake George, NY 1823 – died New York City 1896)
Reviewing Stand in Front of the Executive Mansion, Washington, D.C., May, 1865 (detail of name of battles)
1865, printed early 1880s
Albumen silver print
Library of Congress Prints and Photographs

 

Elsevime (?)
Savannah
Vicksburg
Fort Donelson
Shiloh
Resaca
… River!
South Mountain
Bentonville
Pea Ridge
Stone River

 

Savannah

Throughout the war whites feared that the city was vulnerable to Union attack. Yet when the end came in late 1864, it originated not from the sea, but from the Georgia interior, as General William Tecumseh Sherman led his massive army southeast from Atlanta, sweeping through a largely defenseless state and entering Savannah on the morning of December 21, 1864. The night before, Confederate forces, several thousand strong, had staged an ignominious retreat across the Savannah River to South Carolina. The weary city, blacks and whites alike, rejoiced at the sight of U. S. troops marching down the Bay, the street running parallel to the river and showcasing the city’s largest warehouses and merchants’ offices. Truly, Sherman had liberated the city-and not only for black people, for most of the city’s whites were thoroughly sick of the carnage, and of the conflict that had robbed them of so much and turned their world upside down. (Jacqueline Jones. “Savannah in the Civil War”)

 

Siege of Vicksburg

The Siege of Vicksburg (May 18 – July 4, 1863) was the final major military action in the Vicksburg Campaign of the American Civil War. In a series of maneuvers, Union Maj. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant and his Army of the Tennessee crossed the Mississippi River and drove the Confederate Army of Vicksburg led by Lt. Gen. John C. Pemberton into the defensive lines surrounding the fortress city of Vicksburg, Mississippi.

When two major assaults (May 19 and 22, 1863) against the Confederate fortifications were repulsed with heavy casualties, Grant decided to besiege the city beginning on May 25. With no reinforcement, supplies nearly gone, and after holding out for more than forty days, the garrison finally surrendered on July 4. This action (combined with the surrender of Port Hudson to Maj. Gen. Nathaniel P. Banks on July 9) yielded command of the Mississippi River to the Union forces, who would hold it for the rest of the conflict.

The Confederate surrender following the siege at Vicksburg is sometimes considered, when combined with Gen. Robert E. Lee’s defeat at Gettysburg by Maj. Gen. George G. Meade the previous day, the turning point of the war. It cut off the states of Arkansas, Louisiana, and Texas from the rest of the Confederacy, as well as communication with Confederate forces in the Trans-Mississippi Department for the remainder of the war. (Text from Wikipedia website)

 

Kurz and Allison. 'Siege of Vicksburg - 13, 15, & 17 Corps, Commanded by Gen. U.S. Grant, assisted by the Navy under Admiral Porter - Surrender, July 4, 1863' 1888

 

Kurz and Allison
Siege of Vicksburg – 13, 15, & 17 Corps, Commanded by Gen. U.S. Grant, assisted by the Navy under Admiral Porter – Surrender, July 4, 1863
1888
Lithograph, colour

 

Fort Donelson

The Battle of Fort Donelson was fought from February 11 to 16, 1862, in the Western Theater of the American Civil War. The capture of the fort by Union forces opened the Cumberland River, an important avenue for the invasion of the South. The success elevated Brig. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant from an obscure and largely unproven leader to the rank of major general, earning him the nickname “Unconditional Surrender” Grant in the process (using his first two initials, “U.S.”).

The battle followed the capture of Fort Henry on February 6. Grant moved his army 12 miles overland to Fort Donelson on February 12 and 13 and conducted several small probing attacks. (Although the name was not yet in use, the troops serving under Grant were the nucleus of the Union’s Army of the Tennessee.) On February 14, U.S. Navy gunboats under Flag Officer Andrew H. Foote attempted to reduce the fort with naval gunfire, but were forced to withdraw after sustaining heavy damage from Donelson’s water batteries.

On February 15, with their fort surrounded, the Confederates, commanded by Brig. Gen. John B. Floyd, launched a surprise attack against Grant’s army, attempting to open an avenue of escape. Grant, who was away from the battlefield at the start of the attack, arrived to rally his men and counterattack. Despite achieving a partial success and opening the way for a retreat, Floyd lost his nerve and ordered his men back to the fort.
On the following morning, Floyd and his second-in-command, Brig. Gen. Gideon J. Pillow, panicked and relinquished command to Brig. Gen. Simon Bolivar Buckner (later Governor of the Commonwealth of Kentucky), who agreed to accept the unconditional surrender terms offered by Grant.

Grant was courteous to Buckner following the surrender and offered to loan him money to see him through his impending imprisonment, but Buckner declined. The surrender was a humiliation for Buckner personally, but also a strategic defeat for the Confederacy, which lost more than 12,000 men, 48 artillery pieces and much equipment, as well as control of the Cumberland River, which led to the evacuation of Nashville. This army was the first of three Confederate armies that Grant would capture during the war. (The second was John C. Pemberton’s at the Siege of Vicksburg and the third Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia at Appomattox). Buckner also turned over considerable military equipment and provisions, which Grant’s hungry troops needed badly. More than 7,000 Confederate prisoners of war were eventually transported from Fort Donelson to Camp Douglas in Chicago; others were sent elsewhere throughout the North. Buckner was held as a prisoner at Fort Warren in Boston until he was exchanged that August.

The casualties at Fort Donelson were heavy primarily because of the large Confederate surrender. Union losses were 2,691 (507 killed, 1,976 wounded, 208 captured/missing), Confederate 13,846 (327 killed, 1,127 wounded, 12,392 captured/missing). (Text from Wikipedia website)

 

Kurz and Allison. 'Battle of Fort Donelson - Capture of Generals S.B. Buckner and his army, February 16th 1862' c. 1887

 

Kurz and Allison
Battle of Fort Donelson – Capture of General S.B. Buckner and his army, February 16th 1862
c. 1887
Lithograph, colour

 

L. Prang & Co. Thulstrup, Thure de, 1848-1930 , artist. 'Battle of Shiloh / Thulstrup, April 6-7, 1862' c. 1888

 

L. Prang & Co.
Thulstrup, Thure de, 1848-1930 , artist
Battle of Shiloh, April 6-7, 1862
c. 1888
Chromolithograph

 

 

Shiloh

The Battle of Shiloh, also known as the Battle of Pittsburg Landing, was a major battle in the Western Theater of the American Civil War, fought April 6-7, 1862, in southwestern Tennessee. A Union army under Maj. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant had moved via the Tennessee River deep into Tennessee and was encamped principally at Pittsburg Landing on the west bank of the river. Confederate forces under Generals Albert Sidney Johnston and P. G. T. Beauregard launched a surprise attack on Grant there. The Confederates achieved considerable success on the first day, but were ultimately defeated on the second day.

On the first day of the battle, the Confederates struck with the intention of driving the Union defenders away from the river and into the swamps of Owl Creek to the west, hoping to defeat Grant’s Army of the Tennessee before the anticipated arrival of Maj. Gen. Don Carlos Buell’s Army of the Ohio. The Confederate battle lines became confused during the fierce fighting, and Grant’s men instead fell back to the northeast, in the direction of Pittsburg Landing. A position on a slightly sunken road, nicknamed the “Hornet’s Nest”, defended by the men of Brig. Gens. Benjamin M. Prentiss’s and W. H. L. Wallace’s divisions, provided critical time for the rest of the Union line to stabilize under the protection of numerous artillery batteries. Gen. Johnston was killed during the first day of fighting, and Beauregard, his second in command, decided against assaulting the final Union position that night.

Reinforcements from Buell and from Grant’s own army arrived in the evening and turned the tide the next morning, when the Union commanders launched a counterattack along the entire line. The Confederates were forced to retreat from the bloodiest battle in United States history up to that time, ending their hopes that they could block the Union advance into northern Mississippi.

In the immediate aftermath of the battle, Northern newspapers vilified Grant for his performance during the battle on April 6. Reporters, many far from the battle, spread the story that Grant had been drunk, falsely alleging that this had resulted in many of his men being bayoneted in their tents because of a lack of defensive preparedness. Despite the Union victory, Grant’s reputation suffered in Northern public opinion. Many credited Buell with taking control of the broken Union forces and leading them to victory on April 7. Calls for Grant’s removal overwhelmed the White House. President Lincoln replied with one of his most famous quotations about Grant: “I can’t spare this man; he fights.” Sherman emerged as an immediate hero, his steadfastness under fire and amid chaos atoning for his previous melancholy and his defensive lapses preceding the battle. Today, however, Grant is recognized positively for the clear judgment he was able to retain under the strenuous circumstances, and his ability to perceive the larger tactical picture that ultimately resulted in victory on the second day.

The two-day battle of Shiloh, the costliest in American history up to that time, resulted in the defeat of the Confederate army and frustration of Johnston’s plans to prevent the joining of the two Union armies in Tennessee. Union casualties were 13,047 (1,754 killed, 8,408 wounded, and 2,885 missing); Grant’s army bore the brunt of the fighting over the two days, with casualties of 1,513 killed, 6,601 wounded, and 2,830 missing or captured. Confederate casualties were 10,699 (1,728 killed, 8,012 wounded, and 959 missing or captured). The dead included the Confederate army’s commander, Albert Sidney Johnston; the highest ranking Union general killed was W. H. L. Wallace. Both sides were shocked at the carnage. None suspected that three more years of such bloodshed remained in the war and that eight larger and bloodier battles were yet to come. (Text from Wikipedia website)

 

Resaca

The Battle of Resaca was part of the Atlanta Campaign of the American Civil War. The battle was waged in both Gordon and Whitfield counties, Georgia, May 13-15, 1864. It ended inconclusively with the Confederate Army retreating. The engagement was fought between the Military Division of the Mississippi (led by Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman) on the side of the Union and the Army of Tennessee (Gen. Joseph E. Johnston) for the Confederates.

Johnston had withdrawn his forces from Rocky Face Ridge to the hills around Resaca. On May 13, the Union troops tested the Confederate lines to pinpoint their whereabouts. The next day full scale fighting occurred, and the Union troops were generally repulsed except on the Confederate right flank where Sherman did not fully exploit his advantage. On May 15, the battle continued with no advantage to either side until Sherman sent a force across the Oostanaula River, at Lay’s Ferry, using newly delivered Cumberland pontoon bridges and advanced towards Johnston’s railroad supply line. Unable to halt this Union turning movement, Johnston was forced to retire.

Unable to halt the Union turning movement caused by Sherman’s crossing of the Oostanaula, Johnston was forced to retire, burning the railroad span and a nearby wagon bridge in the early morning of May 16. After the Union repaired the bridges and transported more men over, they continued in the pursuit of the Confederates, leading to the Battle of Adairsville on May 17. There were 6,100 combined casualties: 3,500 for the Union and 2,600 for the Confederacy. (Text from Wikipedia website)

 

Kurz and Allison. 'Battle of Resaca - May 13-15, 1864' c. 1889

 

Kurz and Allison
Battle of Resaca – May 13-15, 1864
c. 1889
Lithograph, colour

 

Robert Knox Sneden (1832-1918) 'The Battle of Crampton's Gap : 5 miles south of Turner's Gap, South Mountain, Md. September 14th 1862' 1862-1865

 

Robert Knox Sneden (1832-1918)
The Battle of Crampton’s Gap : 5 miles south of Turner’s Gap, South Mountain, Md. September 14th 1862
1862-1865

.
A regional view of South Mountain in Frederick County, Md., showing the location of Crampton’s Gap in relation to Sharpsburg, Middletown, Burkittsville, and Brownsville, Md. Illustrates the position of Confederate forces (Anderson’s division commanded by Lafayette McLaws) and the Unions VI Corps, 1st and 2nd divisions during this engagement, part of the larger Antietam, or Maryland Campaign.

 

 

South Mountain

The Battle of South Mountain – known in several early Southern accounts as the Battle of Boonsboro Gap – was fought September 14, 1862, as part of the Maryland Campaign of the American Civil War. Three pitched battles were fought for possession of three South Mountain passes: Crampton’s, Turner’s, and Fox’s Gaps. Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan, commanding the Union Army of the Potomac, needed to pass through these gaps in his pursuit of Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia. Despite being significantly outnumbered, Lee’s army delayed McClellan’s advance for a day before withdrawing.

By dusk, with Crampton’s Gap lost and his position at Fox’s and Turner’s Gaps precarious, Lee ordered his outnumbered forces to withdraw from South Mountain. McClellan was now in position to destroy Lee’s army before it could concentrate. Union casualties of 28,000 engaged were 2,325 (443 killed, 1,807 wounded, and 75 missing); Confederates lost 2,685 (325 killed, 1560 wounded, and 800 missing) of 18,000. The Battle of South Mountain was an important morale booster for the defeat-stricken Army of the Potomac. The New York World wrote that the battle “turn[ed] back the tide of rebel successes” and “the strength of the rebels is hopelessly broken.” Lee contemplated the end of his Maryland campaign. However, McClellan’s limited activity on September 15 after his victory at South Mountain condemned the garrison at Harpers Ferry to capture and gave Lee time to unite his scattered divisions at Sharpsburg for the Battle of Antietam on September 17. (Text from Wikipedia website)

 

Bentonville

The Battle of Bentonville (March 19-21, 1865) was fought in Bentonville, North Carolina, near the town of Four Oaks, as part of the Carolinas Campaign of the American Civil War. It was the last battle between the armies of Union Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman and Confederate Gen. Joseph E. Johnston.

As the right wing of Sherman’s army under command of Maj. Gen. Oliver O. Howard marched toward Goldsborough, the left wing under command of Maj. Gen. H. W. Slocum encountered the entrenched men of Johnston’s army. On the first day of the battle, the Confederates attacked the XIV Corps and routed two divisions, but the rest of Sherman’s army defended its positions successfully. The next day, as Sherman sent reinforcements to the battlefield and expected Johnston to withdraw, only minor sporadic fighting occurred. On the third day, as skirmishing continued, the division of Maj. Gen. Joseph A. Mower followed a path into the Confederate rear and attacked. The Confederates were able to repulse the attack as Sherman ordered Mower back to connect with his own corps. Johnston elected to withdraw from the battlefield that night.

As a result of the overwhelming enemy strength and the heavy casualties his army suffered in the battle, Johnston surrendered to Sherman little more than a month later at Bennett Place, near Durham Station. Coupled with Gen. Robert E. Lee’s surrender earlier in April, Johnston’s surrender represented the effective end of the war.

During the battle, the Confederates suffered a total of nearly 2,600 casualties: 239 killed, 1,694 wounded, and 673 missing. About half of the casualties were lost in the Army of Tennessee.[30] The Union army lost 194 killed, 1,112 wounded, and 221 missing, for a total of 1,527 casualties. The wounded were treated at the house of John Harper, with several of the wounded who died being buried next to the Harper family cemetery. (Text from Wikipedia)

 

Kurz and Allison, publisher Kurz & Allison. 'Battle of Pea Ridge, Ark., March 6-8, 1862' c. 1889

 

Kurz and Allison, publisher Kurz & Allison
Battle of Pea Ridge, Ark., March 6-8, 1862
c. 1889
Chromolithograph
56 x 71.8 cm (sheet)

 

 

Pea Ridge

The Battle of Pea Ridge (also known as the Battle of Elkhorn Tavern) was a land battle of the American Civil War, fought on March 6-8, 1862, at Pea Ridge in northwest Arkansas, near Garfield. Union forces led by Brig. Gen. Samuel R. Curtis moved south from central Missouri, driving Confederate forces into northwestern Arkansas. Maj. Gen. Earl Van Dorn reorganized the Confederate army and launched a counter-offensive, hoping that a victory would enable the Confederates to recapture northern Arkansas and Missouri. In a two–day battle, Curtis held off the Confederate attack on the first day and drove Van Dorn’s force off the field on the second day. The outcome of the battle essentially cemented Union control of Missouri and northern Arkansas. The battle was one of the few during the war in which a Confederate army outnumbered its Union opponent.

Federal forces reported 203 killed, 980 wounded and 201 missing for a total of 1,384 casualties. Of these, Carr’s 4th Division lost 682, almost all in its action on the first day, and Davis’ 3rd Division lost 344. Both Asboth and Carr were wounded but remained in command of their divisions. Van Dorn reported his losses as 800 killed and wounded, with between 200 and 300 prisoners, but these are probably too low. A more recent estimate is that the Confederates suffered approximately 2,000 casualties in the Battle of Pea Ridge. These losses included a large proportion of senior officers. Generals McCulloch, McIntosh, and William Y. Slack were killed or mortally wounded, and Price wounded. Among colonels, Hébert was captured, and Benjamin Rives was mortally wounded, with two other colonels captured and one wounded. (Text from Wikipedia)

 

Kurz and Allison. 'Illustration of the Battle of Stones River, which occurred on December 31, 1862 and January 2-3, 1863' 1891

 

Kurz and Allison
Illustration of the Battle of Stones River, which occurred on December 31, 1862 and January 2-3, 1863. Commanding the forces were General Rosecrans for the Union and General Bragg for the Confederacy. General Rosecrans (left) rallies his troops at Stones River
1891
Lithograph, color

 

 

Stones River

The Battle of Stones River or Second Battle of Murfreesboro (in the South, simply the Battle of Murfreesboro), was fought from December 31, 1862, to January 2, 1863, in Middle Tennessee, as the culmination of the Stones River Campaign in the Western Theater of the American Civil War. Of the major battles of the Civil War, Stones River had the highest percentage of casualties on both sides. Although the battle itself was inconclusive, the Union Army’s repulse of two Confederate attacks and the subsequent Confederate withdrawal were a much-needed boost to Union morale after the defeat at the Battle of Fredericksburg, and it dashed Confederate aspirations for control of Middle Tennessee.

Union Maj. Gen. William S. Rosecrans’s Army of the Cumberland marched from Nashville, Tennessee, on December 26, 1862, to challenge General Braxton Bragg’s Army of Tennessee at Murfreesboro. On December 31, each army commander planned to attack his opponent’s right flank, but Bragg struck first. A massive assault by the corps of Maj. Gen. William J. Hardee, followed by that of Leonidas Polk, overran the wing commanded by Maj. Gen. Alexander M. McCook. A stout defense by the division of Brig. Gen. Philip Sheridan in the right center of the line prevented a total collapse and the Union assumed a tight defensive position backing up to the Nashville Turnpike. Repeated Confederate attacks were repulsed from this concentrated line, most notably in the cedar “Round Forest” salient against the brigade of Col. William B. Hazen. Bragg attempted to continue the assault with the corps of Maj. Gen. John C. Breckinridge, but the troops were slow in arriving and their multiple piecemeal attacks failed.

Fighting resumed on January 2, 1863, when Bragg ordered Breckinridge to assault the well-fortified Union position on a hill to the east of the Stones River. Faced with overwhelming artillery, the Confederates were repulsed with heavy losses. Aware that Rosecrans was receiving reinforcements, Bragg chose to withdraw his army on January 3 to Tullahoma, Tennessee.

Total casualties in the battle were 24,645: 12,906 on the Union side and 11,739 for the Confederates. Considering that only about 76,400 men were engaged, this was the highest percentage of killed and wounded of any major battle in the Civil War, higher in absolute numbers than the infamous bloodbaths at Shiloh and Antietam earlier that year. Four brigadier generals were killed or mortally wounded: Confederate James E. Rains and Roger W. Hanson; Union Edward N. Kirk and Joshua W. Sill. (Text from Wikipedia website)

 

Alexander Gardner. 'Grand Review' 1865

 

Alexander Gardner
Grand Review, Washington, D.C.
1865
Albumen photographs on Stereocard

 

Alexander Gardner. 'Grand Review' 1865 (detail)

 

Alexander Gardner
Grand Review, Washington, D.C. (detail)
1865
Albumen photographs on Stereocard

 

Mathew B. Brady. 'Grand Review Pennsylvania Avenue, May, 1865' 1865

 

Mathew B. Brady (born Lake George, NY 1823 – died New York City 1896)
Grand Review, Pennsylvania Avenue, May, 1865
1865
Stereocard

 

Mathew B. Brady. 'Grand Review, Pennsylvania Avenue, May, 1865' 1865

 

Mathew B. Brady (born Lake George, NY 1823 – died New York City 1896)
Grand Review, Pennsylvannia Avenue, May, 1865
1865

 

 

Civil War Slang

* indicates word is still in general use today

bark juice – alcohol
camp canard – army gossip
cracker line – supply line for moving troops
duds- clothes
greenbacks – money
*high-falutin – fancy
*in a huff – irritated or annoyed
knock into a cocked hat – to beat someone up
*let ‘er rip – to let something happen
lucifers – matches
not by a jug full – “no way”
*row – a fight
sawbones – surgeon
*skedaddle – run away
sparking – courting a girl
Sunday soldiers/parlor soldiers – bad soldiers, insult
*uppity – snobbish, arrogant
wallpapered – drunk
*forage – go through nearby farms for food
sacred soil – ground in Virginia
paper collar man – a rich man
vittles – food
fresh fish – new soldiers
bones – dice

 

Alexander Gardner. 'Untitled [Presidential reviewing stand, Washington, D.C., May, 1865]' 1865

Alexander Gardner. 'Untitled [Presidential reviewing stand, Washington, D.C., May, 1865]' 1865

Alexander Gardner. 'Untitled [Presidential reviewing stand, Washington, D.C., May, 1865]' (detail) 1865

 

Alexander Gardner
Untitled [Presidential reviewing stand, Washington, D.C., May, 1865] (and detail)
From the folio Memories of the War. Illustrations of the Grand Review
1865
3.75″ x 2.75″
Albumen photograph on card

 

Alexander Gardner. 'Untitled [Presidential reviewing stand, Washington, D.C., May, 1865]' 1865

Alexander Gardner. 'Untitled [Presidential reviewing stand, Washington, D.C., May, 1865]' 1865

 

Alexander Gardner
Untitled [Presidential reviewing stand, Washington, D.C., May, 1865]
From the folio Memories of the War. Illustrations of the Grand Review
1865
3.75″ x 2.75″
Albumen photograph on card

 

Alexander Gardner. 'Untitled [Presidential reviewing stand, Washington, D.C., May, 1865]' 1865 (detail)

Alexander Gardner. 'Untitled [Presidential reviewing stand, Washington, D.C., May, 1865]' 1865

Alexander Gardner. 'Untitled [Presidential reviewing stand, Washington, D.C., May, 1865]' 1865

 

Alexander Gardner
Untitled [Presidential reviewing stand, Washington, D.C., May, 1865] (and detail)
From the folio Memories of the War. Illustrations of the Grand Review
1865
3.75″ x 2.75″
Albumen photograph on card

 

Alexander Gardner. 'Untitled [Gand Review, Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, D.C., May, 1865]' 1865

Alexander Gardner. 'Untitled [Gand Review, Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, D.C., May, 1865]' 1865

 

Alexander Gardner
Untitled [Gand Review, Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, D.C., May, 1865]
From the folio Memories of the War. Illustrations of the Grand Review
1865
3.75″ x 2.75″
Albumen photograph on card

 

 

Over a Two-day period in Washington, D.C., May 23-24, 1865, the immense, exultant victory parade of the Union’s main fighting forces in many ways brought the Civil War to its conclusion. With the nation’s new president, Andrew Johnson, declaring on May 10 that all armed resistance was “virtually at an end,” plans commenced for the review. It would far eclipse the two victory celebrations held before the assassination of Abraham Lincoln and bring Washington out of its formal mourning period for the slain president.

William Tecumseh Sherman’s Army of Georgia, just finishing its 2,000-mile march through the heart of the Confederacy, arrived from North Carolina and bivouacked around the capital near George Gordon Meade’s Army of the Potomac. Though the two armies camped on opposite sides of the river, the troops met up with one another in the taverns and brothels of Washington, D.C., where the customary rivalries led to numerous fistfights. Sherman, concerned that Meade’s army would outshine his own in the upcoming parade, was not immune from the rivalry either, ordering some last-minute drilling and spit and polish sessions to whip his ragged troops into marching shape, Sherman knew they could not match the close-order discipline that the Army of the Potomac perfected.

The parade’s first day was devoted to Meade’s force, which, as the capital’s defending army, was a crowd favorite. May 23 was a clear, brilliantly sunny day. Starting from Capitol Hill, the Army of the Potomac marched down Pennsylvania Avenue before virtually the entire population of Washington, a throng of thousands cheering and singing favorite Union marching songs. At the reviewing stand in front of the White House were President Johnson, General-in-Chief Ulysses S. Grant, and top government officials. Leading the day’s march, General Meade dismounted in front of the stand and joined the dignitaries to watch the parade. His army made an awesome sight: a force of 80,000 infantrymen marching 12 across with impeccable precision, along with hundreds of pieces of artillery and a seven-mile line of cavalrymen that alone took an hour to pass. One already famous cavalry officer, George Armstrong Custer, gained the most attention that day-either by design or because his horse was spooked when he temporarily lost control of his mount, causing much excitement as he rode by the reviewing stand twice.

The next day was Sherman’s turn. Beginning its final march at 9 A.M. on another beautiful day, his 65,000-man army passed in review for six hours, with less precision, certainly, than Meade’s forces, but with a bravado that thrilled the crowd. Along with the lean, tattered, and sunburnt troops was the huge entourage that had followed Sherman’s on his march to the sea: medical workers, laborers, black families who fled from slavery, the famous “bummers” who scavenged for the army’s supplies, and a menagerie of livestock gleaned from the Carolina and Georgia farms. Riding in front of his conquering force, Sherman later called the experience “the happiest and most satisfactory moment of my life.”

For the thousands of soldiers participating in both days of the parade, it was one of their final military duties. Within a week of the Grand Review, the Union’s two main armies were both disbanded.

Text from Review of the Grand Armies

 

On May 10, Johnson had declared that the rebellion and armed resistance was virtually at an end, and had made plans with government authorities for a formal review to honor the troops. One of his side goals was to change the mood of the capital, which was still in mourning following the assassination of Abraham Lincoln the month before at Ford’s Theater. Three of the leading Federal armies were close enough to participate in the procession. The Army of the Tennessee arrived via train. The Army of Georgia, also under the command of William T. Sherman, had just completed its Carolinas Campaign and had accepted the surrender of the largest remaining Confederate army, that of Joseph E. Johnston. It arrived from North Carolina in mid-May and camped around the capital city in various locations, across the Potomac River from the Army of the Potomac, fresh off its victories over Robert E. Lee in Virginia. It had arrived in Washington on May 12. Officers in the three armies who had not seen each other for some time (in some cases since before the war) communed and renewed acquaintances, while at times, the common infantrymen engaged in verbal sparring (and sometimes fisticuffs) in the town’s taverns and bars over which army was superior. Sherman, concerned that his Westerners would not present as polished an image as the eastern army, drilled his forces and insisted that uniforms be cleaned, buttons and brass shined, and that bayonets glistened.

At 9:00 a.m. on a bright sunny May 23, a signal gun fired a single shot and Maj. Gen. George Gordon Meade, the victor of Gettysburg, led the estimated 80,000 men of Army of the Potomac down the streets of Washington from Capitol Hill down Pennsylvania Avenue past crowds that numbered into the thousands. The infantry marched with 12 men across the road, followed by the divisional and corps artillery, then an array of cavalry regiments that stretched for another seven miles. The mood was one of gaiety and celebration, and the crowds and soldiers frequently engaged in singing patriotic songs as the procession of victorious soldiers snaked its way towards the reviewing stand in front of the White House, where President Johnson, general-in-chief Ulysses S. Grant, senior military leaders, the Cabinet, and leading government officials awaited. At the head of his troops, Meade dismounted when he arrived at the reviewing stand and joined the dignitaries to salute his men, who passed for over six hours.

On the following day at 10:00 a.m., Sherman led the 65,000 men of the Army of the Tennessee and the Army of Georgia, with an uncharacteristic semblance of military precision, past the admiring celebrities, most of which had never seen him before. For six hours under bright sunshine, the men who had marched through Georgia and those who had defeated John Bell Hood’s army in Tennessee now paraded in front of joyous throngs lining the sidewalks. People peered from windows and rooftops for their first glimpse of this western army. Unlike Meade’s army, which had more military precision, Sherman’s Georgia force was trailed by a vast crowd of people who had accompanied the army up from Savannah – freed blacks, laborers, adventurers, scavengers, etc. At the very end was a vast herd of cattle and other livestock that had been taken from Carolina farms.

Within a week after the celebrations, the two armies were disbanded and many of the volunteer regiments and batteries were sent home to be mustered out of the army.

Although there would be further guerrilla actions (particularly with respect to armed criminal factions, such as the James-Younger Gang) and racial violence in the South (including the rise of the Ku Klux Klan), military conflict between the North and the South had ended. The disbandment of the Union armies and the return home of fathers, brothers, and sons signaled to the population at large that they could begin their return to a normal life and that the end had come for the American Civil War.

Grand Review of the Armies on the Wikipedia website

 

Matthew Brady (1822-1896) 'Self Portrait' c. 1861-62

 

Matthew Brady (1822-1896)
Self Portrait
c. 1861-62

 

James Gardner. 'Portrait of Alexander Gardner' 1863

 

James Gardner (1832 – ?)
Portrait of Alexander Gardner
1863
Albumen silver print

 

Alexander Gardner, shown here in an 1863 Albumen silver print, died at age 61 on Dec. 10, 1882 in his home on Virginia Avenue SW. He was buried two days later in Northeast Washington’s Glenwood Cemetery after a large, well-attended funeral that was noted by the press. Mathew B. Brady, his former employer and rival Civil War photographer, outlived him by almost 14 years. But Brady, who was in his early 70s, died penniless in New York City on Jan. 15, 1896. His body was shipped to Washington, where he was buried in Congressional Cemetery in his late wife’s family plot. He was placed in a grave already occupied by two relatives, after a funeral that cost $6.The two photography pioneers, who once had Washington studios blocks from each other, are now at rest just four miles apart. (Courtesy National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution)

 

Alexander Gardner. 'Untitled [Gand Review, Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, D.C., May, 1865]' 1865

Alexander Gardner. 'Untitled [Gand Review, Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, D.C., May, 1865]' 1865

 

Alexander Gardner
Untitled [Gand Review, Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, D.C., May, 1865]
From the folio Memories of the War. Illustrations of the Grand Review
1865
3.75″ x 2.75″
Albumen photograph on card

 

Alexander Gardner. 'Untitled [Gand Review, Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, D.C., May, 1865]' 1865

 

Alexander Gardner. 'Untitled [Gand Review, Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, D.C., May, 1865]' 1865

Alexander Gardner. 'Untitled [Gand Review, Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, D.C., May, 1865]' 1865 (detail)

 

Alexander Gardner
Untitled [Gand Review, Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, D.C., May, 1865] (and detail)
From the folio Memories of the War. Illustrations of the Grand Review
1865
3.75″ x 2.75″
Albumen photograph on card

 

Alexander Gardner. 'Untitled [Gand Review, Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, D.C., May, 1865]' 1865

Alexander Gardner. 'Untitled [Gand Review, Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, D.C., May, 1865]' 1865

 

Alexander Gardner
Untitled [Gand Review, Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, D.C., May, 1865]
From the folio Memories of the War. Illustrations of the Grand Review
1865
3.75″ x 2.75″
Albumen photograph on card

 

Alexander Gardner. 'Untitled [Gand Review, Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, D.C., May, 1865]' 1865

Alexander Gardner. 'Untitled [Gand Review, Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, D.C., May, 1865]' 1865

Alexander Gardner. 'Untitled [Gand Review, Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, D.C., May, 1865]' 1865 (detail)

 

Alexander Gardner
Untitled [Gand Review, Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, D.C., May, 1865] (and detail)
From the folio Memories of the War. Illustrations of the Grand Review
1865
3.75″ x 2.75″
Albumen photograph on card

 

Alexander Gardner. 'Untitled [Gand Review, Washington, D.C., May, 1865]' 1865

Alexander Gardner. 'Untitled [Gand Review, Washington, D.C., May, 1865]' 1865

 

Alexander Gardner
Untitled [Gand Review, Washington, D.C., May, 1865]
From the folio Memories of the War. Illustrations of the Grand Review
1865
3.75″ x 2.75″
Albumen photograph on card

 

Alexander Gardner. 'Untitled [Gand Review, Washington, D.C., May, 1865]' 1865

Alexander Gardner. 'Untitled [Gand Review, Washington, D.C., May, 1865]' 1865

Alexander Gardner. 'Untitled [Gand Review, Washington, D.C., May, 1865]' 1865 (detail)

 

Alexander Gardner
Untitled [Gand Review, Washington, D.C., May, 1865] (and detail)
From the folio Memories of the War. Illustrations of the Grand Review
1865
3.75″ x 2.75″
Albumen photograph on card

 

Mathew B. Brady. 'Untitled [Presidential reviewing stand, Washington, D.C., May, 1865]' 1865

 

Mathew B. Brady (born Lake George, NY 1823 – died New York City 1896)
Untitled [Presidential reviewing stand, Washington, D.C., May, 1865]
1865

 

Mathew B. Brady. 'Untitled [Presidential reviewing stand, Washington, D.C., May, 1865]' 1865 (detail)

 

Mathew B. Brady (born Lake George, NY 1823 – died New York City 1896)
Untitled [Presidential reviewing stand, Washington, D.C., May, 1865] (detail)
1865

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Detail of the photograph of the reviewing stand in front of the White House shows a number of VIPs, including (left to right) Ulysses S. Grant, the blurred figure of Edwin Stanton, President Andrew Johnson, Wesley Merritt (as commander of the cavalry corps in Philip Sheridan’s absence, he sat next to the president as his corps passed), George Gordon Meade, Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles, Postmaster William Dennison, William T. Sherman, and Quartermaster General Montgomery Meigs (Library of Congress)

 

Mathew B. Brady. 'Untitled [Presidential reviewing stand, Washington, D.C., May, 1865]' 1865

 

Mathew B. Brady (born Lake George, NY 1823 – died New York City 1896)
Untitled [Presidential reviewing stand, Washington, D.C., May, 1865]
1865

 

 

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24
Dec
13

Exhibition: ‘A Democracy of Images: Photographs from the Smithsonian American Art Museum’ at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington DC

Exhibition dates: 28th June 2013 – 5th January 2014
1st floor West, American Art Museum (8th and F Streets, N.W.)

Browse the exhibition and related works on the exhibition website

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The next two weeks sees a lot of exhibitions finish their run on the 5th January 2014.

Here is a bumper posting which contains one of my favourite photographs of all time: Danny Lyon’s Crossing the Ohio River, Louisville (1966, below). From a distance, this looks to be a very interesting exhibition on a large topic, delineated for the viewer into four main sections. The task of the curator cannot have been easy, picking 113 images to represent a “democracy” of images out of a collection of over 7,000 images. Of course there can never be a true “democracy” of images as some will always be more valued within our culture than others. There is a meritocracy in this exhibition which features images by masters of the medium but this is balanced by the inclusion of images by anonymous photographers, little known photographers and vernacular and street photography.

What is most impressive is the specially developed website which includes many images from the different sections of the exhibition. These images are of good quality and, along with relevant text, help the viewer place the images in context. Related content is also suggested from the full photographic collection at The Smithsonian which has been placed online with good image quality. This is a far cry from many exhibitions at state galleries in Australia where there are hardly any dedicated exhibition websites. Most of the photographic collection from these galleries is not available online and if it has been scanned, the image quality is generally poor. How many times have I searched a state gallery or library collection and come up with the answer: “Image not available” ?

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

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“More often, though, the moments, places, people and views that have been collected here feel offhand and stumbled upon, telling a fragmentary, incomplete tale. Sometimes it’s literally a glance, as in “Girl Holding Popsicle,” a 1972 image by Mark Cohen, who rarely even looked through his viewfinder. Other times, it’s more like a long stare, as in William Christenberry’s 1979 “China Grove Church – Hale County, Alabama,” a locale that the Washington-based artist and Alabama native returned to again and again. These 113 pictures are, at the same time, quietly telling, revealing bits of America in oblique, prismatic ways.”

Part of Michael O’Sullivan’s review of the exhibition in The Washington Post.

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American Characters

Photographers have captured the texture of everyday life since the medium’s arrival in the United States in 1839. Photographic portraits have made both the iconic and the commonplace serve as stand-ins for all of us, forging a shared language of political and social understanding. In charting the passing parade of history – the faces of the anonymous and the famous; evolving stories of immigration, disenfranchisement, and assimilation; as well as emblematic objects and celebrated landmarks lodged within our collective memory – photographs reveal the complexities of America.

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Unidentified artist. '[Bird in Basin with Thread Spool and Patterned Cloth]' c. 1855

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Unidentified artist
[Bird in Basin with Thread Spool and Patterned Cloth]
c. 1855
Daguerreotype
Plate: 2 3/4 x 3 1/4 in. (6.9 x 8.2 cm.)
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Museum purchase from the Charles Isaacs Collection made possible in part by the Luisita L. and Franz H. Denghausen Endowment, 1994.91.193

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Larry Sultan (born New York City 1946 - died Greenbrae, CA 2009) 'Portrait of My Father with Newspaper' 1988

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Larry Sultan (born New York City 1946 – died Greenbrae, CA 2009)
Portrait of My Father with Newspaper
1988
Chromogenic print
Image: 28 5/8 x 34 5/8 in. (72.7 x 87.9 cm.)
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Gift of Nan Tucker McEvoy, 1989.58
© 1988, Larry Sultan

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In Portrait of My Father with Newspaper, Irving Sultan reads the Los Angeles Times as light pours in behind him. This carefully composed portrait reveals the artist’s father almost entirely through reflections and shadows. Thin newsprint shields his body from the camera, while only a vague profile of his face is discernible on the right half of the spread. Prompted by the discovery of a box of home movies, Larry Sultan embarked on an eight-year enquiry into his parents’ lives. He stayed in their home for weeks at a time, interviewing them about their marriage and photographing their domestic activities.

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Eugene Richards (born Boston, MA 1944) 'First Communion (Dorchester, Mass.)' 1976

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Eugene Richards (born Boston, MA 1944)
First Communion (Dorchester, Mass.)
1976
Gelatin silver print
Image: 8 x 12 in. (20.3 x 30.5 cm) sheet: 11 x 14 in. (27.9 x 35.6 cm)
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Transfer from the National Endowment for the Arts, 1983.63.1168
© 1974, Eugene Richards

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Mark Cohen (born Wilkes-Barre, PA 1943) 'Girl Holding Popsicle' 1972, printed 1983

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Mark Cohen (born Wilkes-Barre, PA 1943)
Girl Holding Popsicle
1972, printed 1983
Gelatin silver print
Sheet: 14 x 17 in. (35.5 x 43.2 cm.)
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Gift of Dene and Mel Garbow, 1992.73.4
© 1972, Mark Cohen

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In Girl Holding Popsicle a young girl twists shyly as she poses before a graffiti-inscribed brick wall. Mark Cohen took this photograph spontaneously as he passed through a back alley. Cohen does not hesitate to get assertively close to the strangers he meets in his hometown of Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. Many of his photographs are made without looking through a viewfinder, and so remain a mystery even to Cohen until they are developed.

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Unidentified artist. '[Gold Nugget]' c. 1860s

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Unidentified artist
[Gold Nugget]
c. 1860s
Albumen silver print
Image: 2 1/8 x 3 5/8 in. (5.4 x 9.2 cm) sheet: 2 3/8 x 3 7/8 in. (6.1 x 9.8 cm) irregular
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Gift of Charles Isaacs and Carol Nigro, 2006.36.1

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Mathew B. Brady (born Lake George, NY 1823 - died New York City 1896) 'Reviewing Stand in Front of the Executive Mansion, Washington, D.C., May, 1865' 1865, printed early 1880s

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Mathew B. Brady (born Lake George, NY 1823 – died New York City 1896)
Reviewing Stand in Front of the Executive Mansion, Washington, D.C., May, 1865
1865, printed early 1880s
Albumen silver print
Sheet and image: 6 1/2 x 9 in. (16.5 x 22.9 cm)
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Museum purchase through the Julia D. Strong Endowment, 2007.6

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Kevin Bubriski (born North Adams, MA 1954) 'World Trade Center Series, New York City' 2001

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Kevin Bubriski (born North Adams, MA 1954)
World Trade Center Series, New York City
2001
Gelatin silver print
Image: 18 x 18 in. (45.7 x 45.7 cm)
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Gift of the Consolidated Natural Gas Company Foundation, 2003.65.1
© 2001, Kevin Bubriski

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In the weeks and months following the World Trade Center attacks on September 11, 2001, Kevin Bubriski photographed people who gathered at Ground Zero. Frozen in awe, struck with disbelief, and overcome with loss, people stood before the destroyed building site to confront the horrible tragedy. More than ten years later, Bubriski’s photographs preserve the emotional impact of this infamous day through images of those who witnessed its aftermath first-hand.

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Deborah Luster (born Bend, OR 1951) '01-26 Location. 1800 Leonidas Street (Carrollton) Date(s). July 14, 2009 7:55 a.m. Name(s). Brian Christopher Smith (22) Notes. Face up with multiple gunshot wounds' 2008-2012

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Deborah Luster (born Bend, OR 1951)
01-26 Location. 1800 Leonidas Street (Carrollton) Date(s). July 14, 2009 7:55 a.m. Name(s). Brian Christopher Smith (22) Notes. Face up with multiple gunshot wounds
2008-2012
Gelatin silver print
55 x 55 in. (139.7 x 139.7 cm)
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Museum purchase through the Luisita L. and Franz H. Denghausen Endowment, 2013.43, © 2010, Deborah Luster

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This photograph, from a series that documents contemporary and historical homicide sites in New Orleans, presents Deborah Luster’s interpretation of the last view of the crime victim lying face up on the ground. The title is the entry from the New Orleans Police blotter, but the photograph is Luster’s meditation on looking, seeing, and the power of images to haunt our imagination.

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Unidentified artist. '[Two Workmen Polishing a Stove]' c. 1865

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Unidentified artist
[Two Workmen Polishing a Stove]
c. 1865
Albumen silver print
Sheet and image: 14 1/8 x 11 in. (35.9 x 28.0 cm.)
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Museum purchase from the Charles Isaacs Collection made possible in part by the Luisita L. and Franz H. Denghausen Endowment, 1994.91.220

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Anthony Barboza (born New Bedford, MA 1944) '"Marvelous" Marvin Hagler, boxer' 1981

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Anthony Barboza (born New Bedford, MA 1944)
“Marvelous” Marvin Hagler, boxer
1981
Gelatin silver print
Image: 13 7/8 x 13 7/8 in. (35.2 x 35.2 cm)
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Gift of Kenneth B. Pearl, 1997.118.2, © 1981, Anthony Barboza

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Edward S. Curtis (born Whitewater, WI 1868 - died Los Angeles, CA 1952) 'Girl and Jar - San Ildefonso' 1905

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Edward S. Curtis (born Whitewater, WI 1868 – died Los Angeles, CA 1952)
Girl and Jar – San Ildefonso
1905
Photogravure
Sight 16 5/8 x 12 1/4 in. (12.3 x 31.1 cm.)
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Transfer from the United States Marshal Service of the U.S. Department of Justice, 1988.5.18

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Between 1900 and 1930, Edward S. Curtis traveled across the continent photographing more than seventy Native American tribes. The photographs, compiled into twenty volumes, presented daily activities, customs, and religions of a people he called “a vanishing race.” Curtis hoped to preserve the legacy of Native peoples in lasting images. To this end, Curtis often costumed his subjects and set up scenes, mixing tribal artifacts and traditions to match his romantic vision of the people he studied. In this intimate portrait, a young Tewa woman named Povi-Tamu (“Flower Morning”) balances a large jug with help from a hidden fiber ring. She is from the San Ildefonso Pueblo of New Mexico, which is famed for its rich tradition of fine pottery. Curtis associated the serpentine design of the vessel with the serpent cult, which he noted was central to Tewa life.

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Oliver H. Willard (died 1875) 'Portrait of a Young Woman' c. 1857

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Oliver H. Willard (died 1875)
Portrait of a Young Woman
c. 1857
Salted paper print
8 7/8 x 6 3/4 in. (22.5 x 17.1 cm)
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Museum purchase through the Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation, 1999.29.1

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Spiritual Frontier

The earliest photographs made in America describe an awesome land blessed with such an abundance of natural beauty that it seemed heaven sent. Images of waterfalls, mountains, and vast open spaces conveyed the beauty, the grandeur, the sublimity, and dynamics of a great spiritual endeavor. In the nineteenth century photographers pictured wilderness landscapes that symbolized American greatness. More recently, photographers have described a landscape no less romantic, but now recalibrated to account for the interaction of nature and culture.

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Eadweard Muybridge (born Kingston-upon-Thames, England 1830 - died Kingston-upon-Thames, England 1904) 'Valley of the Yosemite from Union Point' 1872

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Eadweard Muybridge (born Kingston-upon-Thames, England 1830 – died Kingston-upon-Thames, England 1904)
Valley of the Yosemite from Union Point
1872
Albumen silver print
Sheet: 17 x 21 1/2 in. (43.2 x 54.6 cm.)
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Gift of Dr. and Mrs. Charles T. Isaacs, 1994.89.1

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Eadweard Muybridge went to great lengths to photograph the best possible views of the West. He chopped down trees if they obstructed his camera, and ventured to “points where his packers refused to follow him.” Muybridge was determined to produce the most comprehensive photographs ever made of Yosemite and the surrounding region. His views were sold widely in both large-format prints and stereograph cards, which are viewed through a device that creates the illusion of three-dimensional space. This allowed Muybridge to transport his audience, if just for a moment, to a faraway place caught on film.

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Robert Frank (born Zurich, Switzerland 1924) 'Butte, Montana' 1956, printed 1973

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Robert Frank (born Zurich, Switzerland 1924)
Butte, Montana
1956, printed 1973
Gelatin silver print
Image: 8 3/4 x 13 in. (22.2 x 33.0 cm.)
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Museum purchase, 1974.31.2

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Robert Adams (born Orange, NJ 1937) 'New Housing, Longmont, Colorado' 1973

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Robert Adams (born Orange, NJ 1937)
New Housing, Longmont, Colorado
1973
Gelatin silver print
Sheet: 6 x 7 5/8 in. (15.1 x 19.3 cm)
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Transfer from the National Endowment for the Arts, 1983.63.9
© 1973, Robert Adams

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As both a photographer and writer, Robert Adams is committed to describing the western American landscape as both awe-inspiring and scarred by man. In New Housing, Longmont Colorado, Adams contrasted the vast space of the distant landscape view with a foreground image of the wall of a newly constructed suburban tract house. Adams invites a consideration of the balance between myth and reality and the land as home as well as scenic backdrop.

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Charles L. Weed (born New York City 1824 - died Oakland, CA 1903) 'Mirror Lake and Reflections, Yosemite Valley, Mariposa County, California' 1865

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Charles L. Weed (born New York City 1824 – died Oakland, CA 1903)
Mirror Lake and Reflections, Yosemite Valley, Mariposa County, California
1865
Albumen silver print
Sheet and image: 15 1/2 x 20 1/4 in. (39.4 x 51.4 cm.)
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Gift of Dr. and Mrs. Charles T. Isaacs, 1994.89.5

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Like Carleton Watkins, his better-known competitor, Charles Weed recognized the pictorial dividend to be gained by showing Yosemite’s glorious geological features in duplicate, using the valley’s lakes as reflecting ponds. Weed first traveled to what was then known as “Yo-Semite,” in 1859, but with a relatively small camera; he returned in 1865 with a larger model capable of using what were called mammoth plates. Like Watkins, he sold his prints to buyers eager to own a photograph of majestic natural beauty.

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Ansel Adams (born San Francisco, CA 1902 - died Monterey, CA 1984) 'Monolith: The Face of Half Dome, Yosemite Valley' 1926-1927, printed 1927

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Ansel Adams (born San Francisco, CA 1902 – died Monterey, CA 1984)
Monolith: The Face of Half Dome, Yosemite Valley
1926-1927, printed 1927
Gelatin silver print
Sheet: 11 7/8 x 9 7/8 in. (30.2 x 25.1 cm.)
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Museum purchase, 1992.101.3, © 2013 The Ansel Adams Publishing Rights Trust

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At just over 4,700 feet above the valley, Half Dome is the most iconic rock formation in Yosemite National Park. Adams squeezed the monolith into the frame to emphasize the majesty of its scale and the drama of its cliff. As it thrusts out of the brilliant white snow, Half Dome stands as a symbol of the unspoiled western landscape. Ansel Adams made his first trip to the Sierra Nevada mountain range when he was fourteen years old, and he returned every year until the end of his life, often for month-long stretches. Throughout his career Adams traveled widely – from Hawaii to Maine – to photograph the most picturesque vistas in America. After his death in 1984, a section of the Sierra Nevada was named the Ansel Adams Wilderness in his honor.

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John Pfahl (born New York City 1939) 'Goodyear #5, Niagara Falls, New York' 1989

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John Pfahl (born New York City 1939)
Goodyear #5, Niagara Falls, New York
1989
Chromogenic print
Sheet: 20 x 24 in. (50.8 x 61.0 cm.)
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Gift of the Consolidated Natural Gas Company Foundation, 1991.27.3, © 1989, John Pfahl

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John Pfahl’s photographs embody the conflict between progress and preservation. Throughout the 1980s he focused on oil refineries and power plants. He chose the sites strategically based on their location in picturesque landscapes, where he observed a “transcendental” connection between industry and nature. In Goodyear #5 a nuclear power plant occupies the horizon. The setting sun provides a romantic color palette as light filters through clouds of billowing steam. The landscape is reduced to an abstract composition that celebrates color and texture. Pfahl’s intention with this series, titled Smoke, was to “make photographs whose very ambiguity provokes thought.” This photograph complicates popular notions of power plants by revealing an uncommonly beautiful view of a controversial structure.

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“A Democracy of Images: Photographs from the Smithsonian American Art Museum celebrates the numerous ways in which photography, from early daguerreotypes to contemporary digital works, has captured the American experience. The photographs presented here are selected from the approximately 7,000 images collected since the museum’s photography program began thirty years ago, in 1983. Ranging from daguerreotype to digital, they depict the American experience and are loosely grouped around four ideas: American Characters, Spiritual Frontier, America Inhabited, and Imagination at Work.

The exhibition’s title is inspired by American poet Walt Whitman’s belief that photography provided America with a new, democratic art form that matched the spirit of the young country and his belief that photography was a quintessentially American activity, rooted in everyday people and ordinary things and presented in a straightforward way. Known as the “poet of democracy,” Whitman wrote after visiting a daguerreotype studio in 1846: “You will see more life there – more variety, more human nature, more artistic beauty… than in any spot we know.” At the time of Whitman’s death, in 1892, George Eastman had just introduced mass market photography when he put an affordable box camera into the hands of thousands of Americans. The ability to capture an instant of lasting importance and fundamental truth mesmerized Americans then and continues to inspire photographers working today. Marking the thirtieth anniversary of the establishment of the museum’s pioneering photography collection, the exhibition examines photography’s evolution in the United States from a documentary medium to a full-fledged artistic genre and showcases the numerous ways in which it has distilled our evolving idea of “America.”

The exhibition features 113 photographs selected from the museum’s permanent collection, including works by Edward S. Curtis, Timothy H. O’SullivanBerenice AbbottDiane ArbusRoy DeCaravaWalker Evans,Irving PennTrevor Paglen, among others, as well as vernacular works by unknown artists. A number of recent acquisitions are featured, including works by Ellen CareyMitch EpsteinMuriel HasbunAlfredo Jaar, Annie Leibovitz, Deborah Luster, and Sally Mann. Landscapes, portraits, documentary-style works from the New York Photo League and images from surveying expeditions sent westward after the Civil War are among the images on display, and explore how photographs have been used to record and catalogue, to impart knowledge, to project social commentary, and as instruments of self-expression.

Photography’s arrival in the United States in 1840 allowed ordinary people to make and own images in a way that had not been previously possible. Photographers immediately became engaged with the life of the emerging nation, the activity of new urban centers, and the possibilities of unprecedented access to the vast western frontier. From the nineteenth to the twentieth century, photography not only captured the country’s changing cultural and physical landscape, but also developed its own language and layers of meaning.

A Democracy of Images: Photographs from the Smithsonian American Art Museum is organized around four major themes that defined American photography. “American Characters” examines the ways in which photographs of individuals, places, and objects become a catalogue of our collective memory and have contributed to the ever-evolving idea of the American character. “Spiritual Frontier” investigates early ideas of a vast, inexhaustible wilderness that symbolized American greatness. “America Inhabited” traces the nation’s rapid industrialization and urbanization through images of speed, change, progress, immigration, and contemporary rural, urban, and suburban landscapes. “Imagination at Work” demonstrates how photography’s role of spontaneous witness gradually gave way to contrived arrangement and artistic invention. The exhibition is organized by Merry Foresta, guest curator and independent consultant for the arts. She was the museum’s curator of photography from 1983 to 1999.

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Connecting online
A complementary website designed for viewing on tablets includes photographs on view in the exhibition, an expanded selection of works from the museum’s collection and a timeline of American photography. It is available through tablet stations in the exhibition galleries, online, and on mobile devices.”

Press release from the Smithsonian American Art Museum website

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America Inhabited

Photography’s early presence in America coincided with the rise of an industrial economy, the growth of major urban population centers, and the fulfilling of what some saw as the Manifest Destiny of spanning the continent from sea to sea. Images of progress and industry, as well as of city and suburbs, quickly added themselves to photography’s catalogue of places and people. Some of these images reflect idealistically, and at times nostalgically, on the beauty and humanity of our own backyards. Others stand as social documents that can be seen as critical and ironic, inviting outrage as well as compassion about the way we now live our lives.

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Helen Levitt (born New York City 1913 - died New York City 2009) 'New York' c. 1942, printed later

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Helen Levitt (born New York City 1913 – died New York City 2009)
New York
c. 1942, printed later
Gelatin silver print
Image: 7 1/8 x 10 1/2 in. (18.1 x 26.6 cm.)
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Museum purchase, 1984.16.4, © 1981, Helen Levitt

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Caught before they run off into the streets, three masked youngsters pause on their front stoop. Expressive postures and mysterious disguises give this trio a theatrical quality. Helen Levitt, who found poetry in the uninhibited gestures of children, used a right-angle viewfinder to capture boys and girls roaming freely and playing with found objects. Working in New York City during the years surrounding World War II, her photographs show the drama of life that unfolded on the sidewalks of poor and working-class neighborhoods.

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Louis Faurer (born Philadelphia, PA 1916 - died New York City 2001) 'Broadway, New York, N.Y.' 1949-1950, printed 1980-1981

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Louis Faurer (born Philadelphia, PA 1916 – died New York City 2001)
Broadway, New York, N.Y.
1949-1950, printed 1980-1981
Gelatin silver print
Image: 8 3/8 x 12 9/16 in. (21.3 x 32 cm)
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Gift of David L. Davies and John D. Weeden and museum purchase, 2002.47.6, © Estate of Louis Faurer

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Danny Lyon (born New York City 1942) 'Crossing the Ohio River, Louisville' 1966, printed 1985

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Danny Lyon (born New York City 1942)
Crossing the Ohio River, Louisville
1966, printed 1985
Gelatin silver print
Image: 8 3/4 x 12 7/8 in. (22.2 x 32.7 cm.)
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Museum purchase made possible by Mrs. Marshall Langhorne, 1988.52.8, Photo courtesy Edwynn Houk Gallery and Dektol.wordpress.com

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William Eggleston (born Memphis, TN 1939) 'Tricycle (Memphis)' about 1975, printed 1980

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William Eggleston (born Memphis, TN 1939)
Tricycle (Memphis)
about 1975, printed 1980
Dye transfer print
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Amy Loeserman Klein, 1985.87.12

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An ordinary tricycle is made monumental in this playful color photograph. Taken from below, it suggests a child’s perspective – elevating this rusty tricycle to a symbol of innocence and freedom. The quiet Memphis suburb in the background typifies the safe neighborhoods where children could spend hours playing after school. This print was made with the expensive and exacting dye imbibition process, which was typically used for fashion and advertising at the time. Eggleston began experimenting with color photography in the mid-1960s. Inspired by trips to a commercial photography lab, he developed an approach that imitates the random, imperfect style of amateur snapshots to describe his immediate surroundings combined with a keen interest in the effects of color.

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Tina Barney (born New York City 1945) 'Marina's Room' 1987

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Tina Barney (born New York City 1945)
Marina’s Room
1987
Chromogenic print
Sheet: 48 x 60 in. (121.9 x 52.3 cm.)
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Museum purchase, 1989.5, © 1987, Tina Barney, Courtesy Janet Borden, Inc.

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Aaron Siskind (born New York City 1903 - died Providence, RI 1991) 'Untitled' 1937, printed later

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Aaron Siskind (born New York City 1903 – died Providence, RI 1991)
Untitled
1937, printed later
Gelatin silver print
Sheet: 10 x 14 in. (25.4 x 35.5 cm.)
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Gift of Tennyson and Fern Schad, courtesy of Light Gallery, 1990.73.4, © 1940, Aaron Siskind

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In this untitled photograph Aaron Siskind focused on the regular grid of boarded-up windows on a derelict tenement building. Once portals into intimate domestic spaces, the windows represent loss in a community plagued by poverty, unemployment, and racial discrimination. Building upon the traditions of social documentary photographers before him, Siskind used his camera to raise public awareness of Harlem’s struggle, even as he created a modernist work of art.

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Walker Evans (born St. Louis, MO 1903 - died New Haven, CT 1975) 'Kitchen Wall, Alabama Farmstead' 1936, printed 1974

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Walker Evans (born St. Louis, MO 1903 – died New Haven, CT 1975)
Kitchen Wall, Alabama Farmstead
1936, printed 1974
Gelatin silver print
Sheet and image: 9 3/8 x 12 in. (23.9 x 30.5 cm)
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Gift of Lee and Maria Friedlander, 2006.13.1.8

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During the summer of 1936, Walker Evans joined writer James Agee in rural Alabama to work on a magazine assignment on cotton farming. Evans and Agee met with three tenant farm families and documented every detail of their experiences. The result, which the magazine declined to publish, was released as the book Let Us Now Praise Famous Men in 1941. It contains some of the most iconic and contentious photographs to document the Great Depression. Kitchen Wall, Alabama Farmstead reads like a modern novel. Every crack in the wood, every speck of paint tells part of the story. Evans drew special attention to the scarcity of cooking tools at the family’s disposal. These everyday utensils illustrate a metaphor for the struggle to meet basic needs.

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Judy Fiskin (born Chicago, IL 1945) 'Long Beach Pike (broken fence)', from the 'Long Beach, California Documentary Survey Project' 1980

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Judy Fiskin (born Chicago, IL 1945)
Long Beach Pike (broken fence), from the Long Beach, California Documentary Survey Project
1980
Gelatin silver print
Image: 2 1/2 x 2 1/2 in. (6.2 x 6.2 cm)
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Transfer from the National Endowment for the Arts, 1983.63.505, © 1980, Judy Fiskin

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For this series, sponsored by the National Endowment of the Art’s Long Beach Documentary Survey Project, Judy Fiskin focused on the Long Beach Pike, an amusement park that was demolished soon after she made the photographs. By printing in high contrast and restricting the scale of her prints, Fiskin reduced form to its bare essentials. Devoid of superfluous detail, these photographs appear more like conjured images than documents of reality. Judy Fiskin systematically catalogues the world of architecture and design in order to study variations of historical styles. Her series carefully investigate esoteric subjects such as military base architecture, “dingbat” style houses in southern California, and the art of flower arranging.

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Berenice Abbott (born Springfield, OH 1898-died Monson, ME 1991) 'Brooklyn Bridge, Water and Dock Streets, Brooklyn' 1936

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Berenice Abbott (born Springfield, OH 1898-died Monson, ME 1991)
Brooklyn Bridge, Water and Dock Streets, Brooklyn
1936
Gelatin silver print
Sheet: 18 x 14 3/8 in. (45.7 x 36.6 cm.)
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Transfer from the Evander Childs High School, Bronx, New York through the General Services Administration, 1975.83.10

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Berenice Abbott returned home in 1929 after nearly eight years abroad and found herself fascinated by the rapid growth of New York City. She saw the city as bristling with new buildings and structures which seemed to her as solid and as permanent as a mountain range. Aiming to capture “the past jostling the present,” Abbott spent the next five years on a project she called Changing New York. In Brooklyn Bridge, Water and Dock Streets, Brooklyn, Abbott presented a century of history in a single image. The Brooklyn Bridge, once a marvel of modern engineering, seems dark and heavy compared with the skeletal structure beneath it. The construction site at center suggests the never-ending cycle of death and regeneration. And the Manhattan skyline, veiled and weightless, hangs just out of reach, its shape accommodating the ambitious spirit of American modernism.

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Robert Disraeli (born Cologne, Germany 1905 - died 1987) 'Cold Day on Cherry Street' 1932

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Robert Disraeli (born Cologne, Germany 1905 – died 1987)
Cold Day on Cherry Street
1932
Gelatin silver print
Image and sheet: 14 x 11 in. (35.5 x 28.0 cm.)
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Museum purchase made possible by Mr. and Mrs. G. Howland Chase, Mrs. James S. Harlan (Adeline M. Noble Collection), Lucie Louise Fery, Berthe Girardet, and Mrs. George M. McClellan, 1990.19.9, © 1932, Robert Disraeli

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Imagination at Work

Nineteenth-century French commentator Alexis de Tocqueville observed that in America, nothing is ever quite what it seems. Yet the idea that “seeing is believing” is deeply ingrained in the American character. By yoking together style and subject under the guise of the real, today’s photographers borrow from photography’s rich past while embracing the conceptual framework of contemporary art. They read reality as something on the surface of a picture or, more complexly, as something located in the mind of its beholder.

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Sonya Noskowiak (born Leipzig, Germany 1900 - died Greenbrae, CA 1975) 'Calla Lily' c. 1930s

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Sonya Noskowiak (born Leipzig, Germany 1900 – died Greenbrae, CA 1975)
Calla Lily
c. 1930s
Gelatin silver print
Sheet: 7 3/8 x 9 3/4 in. (18.8 x 24.7 cm.)
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Museum purchase made possible through Deaccession Funds, 1986.54

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Ray K. Metzker (born Milwaukee, WI 1931) 'Composites: Philadelphia (Car and Street Lamp)' 1966

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Ray K. Metzker (born Milwaukee, WI 1931)
Composites: Philadelphia (Car and Street Lamp)
1966
Gelatin silver prints
Image: 25 3/8 x 17 3/4 in. (64.5 x 45.0 cm.)
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Museum purchase, 1984.57.1, © 1966, Ray K. Metzker

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Ray Metzker’s Composites series, begun in 1964, connected in a dramatic fashion his interests in contrasts of light and shadow, his strong sense of design, and his earlier explorations of the multiple image. Metzker studied at Chicago’s Institute of Design, where a rigorously formal, problem-solving approach to photography was taught. For this series he assembled grids of individual photographs to create complex image-fields. When viewed from a distance, this work reads as an abstract, rhythmic pattern of light and dark. On closer inspection, however, many crisply descriptive images are revealed. The Composites function somewhat like short filmstrips. The mystery of these brief narratives is exaggerated by the repetitive design and provides a unique opportunity, in Metzker’s words, “to deal with complexity of succession and simultaneity, of collected and related moments.”

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Irving Penn (born Plainfield, NJ 1917 - died New York City 2009) 'Mud Glove - New York' 1975, printed 1976

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Irving Penn (born Plainfield, NJ 1917 – died New York City 2009)
Mud Glove – New York
1975, printed 1976
Platinum-palladium print
Sheet and image: 29 3/4 x 22 1/4 in. (75.5 x 56.5 cm.)
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Gift of the artist, 1988.83.39

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Irving Penn was one of the most important and influential photographers of the twentieth century. In a career that spanned almost seventy years, Penn worked across multiple genres, from celebrity portraits to fashion, from still lives to images of native cultures in remote places of the world. Throughout his career Penn also worked on a series of photographs of discarded objects: things that had been lost, neglected, or misused. Printed in platinum, these detailed photographs of objects such as a lost glove found in the gutter, are Penn’s photographic memento mori, offering beauty compromised by age or disuse.

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Edward Weston (born Highland Park, IL 1886 - died Carmel, CA 1958) 'Pepper no. 30' 1930

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Edward Weston (born Highland Park, IL 1886 – died Carmel, CA 1958)
Pepper no. 30
1930
Gelatin silver print
Sheet: 9 1/2 x 7 1/2 in. (24.3 x 19.2 cm.)
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Museum purchase, 1985.56

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Imogen Cunningham (born Portland, OR 1883 - died San Francisco, CA 1976) 'Auragia' 1953, printed c. 1960s

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Imogen Cunningham (born Portland, OR 1883 – died San Francisco, CA 1976)
Auragia
1953, printed c. 1960s
Gelatin silver print
Sheet and image: 11 1/8 x 8 3/4 in. (28.3 x 22.2 cm)
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Gift of Charles Isaacs and Carol Nigro, 2007.37.2

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Ellen Carey (born New York City 1952) 'Dings and Shadows' 2012

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Ellen Carey (born New York City 1952)
Dings and Shadows
2012
Chromogenic print
Sheet and image: 40 x 30 in. (101.6 x 76.2 cm)
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Gift of Linda Cheverton Wick and Walter Wick, 2013.29
© 2012, Ellen Carey

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Ellen Carey created the series she calls Dings and Shadows by exposing photosensitive paper to light projected through primary and complementary color filters. The artist first folds and crushes paper; then after exposing the paper to light from a color enlarger, flattens it out again for processing. In doing so, Carey dissects the process of developing film, and evokes the hand-crafted nature of early photographic techniques.

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Some images from the Timeline on the website

1843

Daguerreotypists Albert S. Southworth and Josiah Johnson Hawes begin a partnership, establishing Southworth & Hawes as the most highly regarded portrait studio in Boston, Mass. The studio caters to the city’s elite, and is visited by Charles Dickens, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Oliver Wendell Holmes, among many other influential people of the time.

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Albert Sands Southworth and Josiah Johnson Hawes. 'A Bride and Her Bridesmaids' 1851

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Albert Sands Southworth and Josiah Johnson Hawes
A Bride and Her Bridesmaids
1851
Daguerreotype
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Museum purchase made possible by Walter Beck, 2000.110

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1853

The New York Daily Tribune estimates that in the United States, three million daguerreotypes are being produced annually.

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Unidentified artist. 'Mother and Son' c. 1855

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Unidentified artist
Mother and Son
c. 1855
Daguerreotype with applied color
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Museum purchase from the Charles Isaacs Collection made possible in part by the Luisita L. and Franz H. Denghausen Endowment, 1994.91.192

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1857

Julian Vannerson and Samuel Cohner make the first systematic photographs of Native American delegations to visit Washington, D.C. They photograph ninety delegates representing thirteen tribes who conduct treaty and other negotiations with government officials.

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Julian Vannerson. 'Shining Metal' 1858

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Julian Vannerson
Shining Metal
1858
Salted paper print
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Museum purchase from the Charles Isaacs Collection made possible in part by the Luisita L. and Franz H. Denghausen Endowment

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1861

American Civil War begins with shots fired on Fort Sumter by Confederate troops. Portrait photographer Mathew Brady is given permission by President Abraham Lincoln to photograph the First Battle of Bull Run, but comes so close to the battle that he narrowly avoids capture. Using paid assistants Alexander Gardner, Timothy O’Sullivan, George N. Barnard, and others, Brady’s studio makes thousands of photos of the sites, material, and people of the war. Civilian free-lance photographer Egbert Guy Fowx sells numerous negatives to Brady’s studio, which publishes and copyrights many of them. Many other images are credited to Fowx, including this group of Union officers.

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Egbert Guy Fowx. 'New York 7th Regiment Officers' c. 1863

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Egbert Guy Fowx
New York 7th Regiment Officers
c. 1863
Salted paper print
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Museum purchase from the Charles Isaacs Collection made possible in part by the Luisita L. and Franz H. Denghausen Endowment, 1994.91.53

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1867

Eadweard Muybridge begins trip to photograph in Yosemite Valley. He publishes his photographs under the name “Helios,” which is also the name of his San Francisco studio. An exhibition of more than 300 photographic portraits of Native American delegates to Washington, D.C., opens in the Smithsonian Castle. Clarence R. King begins direction of the U.S. Geological Expedition of the Fortieth Parallel, appointing Timothy O’Sullivan as the official photographer. Photographer Carleton Watkins joins the survey in 1871.

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Timothy H. O'Sullivan. 'Tufa Domes, Pyramid Lake, Nevada' 1867

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Timothy H. O’Sullivan
Tufa Domes, Pyramid Lake, Nevada
1867
Albumen silver print
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Museum purchase from the Charles Isaacs Collection made possible in part by the Luisita L. and Franz H. Denghausen Endowment, 1994.91.142

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1869

Andrew J. Russell’s album, The Great West Illustrated in a Series of Photographic Views across the Continent; Taken along the Line of the Union Pacific Railroad from Omaha, Nebraska, Volume I, is published. George M. Wheeler begins direction of the United States Geological Surveys West of the 100th Meridian for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Wheeler makes fourteen trips to the West over the next eight years. Photographer Timothy O’Sullivan accompanies him in 1871, 1873, and 1874.

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Andrew Joseph Russell. 'Sphinx of the Valley' 1869

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Andrew Joseph Russell
Sphinx of the Valley
1869
Albumen silver print
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Museum purchase from the Charles Isaacs Collection made possible in part by the Luisita L. and Franz H. Denghausen Endowment, 1994.91.164

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1967

The Friends of Photography is founded in Carmel, California, by Ansel Adams, Beaumont and Nancy Newhall, Brett Weston, and others, with the aim of promoting creative photography and supporting its practitioners. It remains in existence until 2001.

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Brett Weston. 'Untitled (Snow Covered Mountains)' 1973

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Brett Weston
Untitled (Snow Covered Mountains)
1973
Gelatin silver print
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Transfer from the National Endowment for the Arts, 1983.63.1659
© 1973, Brett Weston

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1975

New Topographics: Photographs of a Man-Altered Landscape opens at the International Museum of Photography in Rochester, N.Y. It includes photographs by Robert Adams, Lewis Baltz, Bernd and Hilla Becher, Joe Deal, Frank Gohlke, Nicholas Nixon, John Schott, Stephen Shore, and Henry Wessel Jr.

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Frank Gohlke. 'Grain Elevator, Dumas, Texas, 1973' 1973, printed 1994

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Frank Gohlke
Grain Elevator, Dumas, Texas, 1973
1973, printed 1994
Gelatin silver print
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Museum purchase through the Luisita L. and Franz H. Denghausen Endowment, 2010.15.3
© 1973, Frank Gohlke

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Smithsonian American Art Museum
8th and F Streets, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20004

Opening hours:
11.30 am – 7.00 pm daily

Smithsonian American Art Museum website

A Democracy of Images website

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His art work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes Art Blart, a photographic archive and form of cultural memory, which posts mainly photography exhibitions from around the world. He holds a Dr of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne, a Master of Arts (Fine Art Photography) from RMIT University, and a Master of Art Curatorship from the University of Melbourne.

Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘Mask’ 1994

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