The Philadelphia Museum of Art has acquired, through several gifts and a purchase agreement with the Aperture Foundation, the core collection of photographs by Paul Strand, one of the preeminent photographers of the twentieth century. Through the generosity of philanthropists Lynne and Harold Honickman, Marjorie and Jeffrey Honickman, and H. F. "Gerry" and Marguerite Lenfest, the Museum has received as partial and promised gifts 1,422 images from The Paul Strand Archive at the Aperture Foundation, as well as 566 master prints from Strand's negatives by the artist Richard Benson. The Museum has also entered into an agreement with the Foundation to purchase an additional 1,276 photographs. As a whole, this acquisition comprises more than 3,000 prints and lantern slides, including the finest examples of every image in the Archive. Joining the more than six hundred Strand photographs already in the Museum's collections, this acquisition makes the Philadelphia Museum of Art the world's most important repository for the study of his work.
Combined with its existing holdings, this acquisition will give the Museum an unrivaled collection of Strand's pioneering early work and his photographs of the Southwest and Mexico, all recognized as high points of his career. Added to the recent gifts to the Museum, the acquisition will also enable us to assemble nearly complete sets of vintage prints from all of Strand's later projects, beginning with his New England photographs of the 1940s and running through the final great series he made in the garden of his home in Orgeval, France.
The Paul Strand Collection at the Philadelphia Museum of Art will rank among the finest and most significant group of works by key figures in the history of photography. As the definitive collection of one of the twentieth century's greatest photographers, it will also be a critical component of the Museum's internationally distinguished collections of modernist art, which include the renowned Louise and Walter Arensberg and A. E. Gallatin collections. Indeed, the Paul Strand Collection will come to be seen as a cornerstone of the Museum's collection, comparable to the extensive holdings of works by Marcel Duchamp and Thomas Eakins. Support the acquisition of The Paul Strand Collection >>
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Paul Strand (American, 1890–1976) ranks indisputably among the most significant photographers in the history of the medium. He explored the modernist possibilities of the camera more fully than any other artist before 1920, producing a celebrated series of abstractions that reduced still life and architectural elements to simple arrangements of shapes, while at the same time creating some of the earliest "street photographs" of people he caught unawares in urban New York settings. These diverse experiments produced iconic masterpieces such as Wall Street
(1915) and Blind Woman
(1916) and are now widely recognized as major contributions to modernist art, having introduced subjects that influenced leading photographers of the twentieth century such as Walker Evans, Dorothea Lange, Henri Cartier-Bresson, and Robert Frank.
In the 1920s, Strand explored the camera's potential to exceed human vision, making intimate, detailed portraits, and recording the nuances of machine and natural forms. He created many of these portraits, landscapes, still lifes, and architectural studies on various travels to the Southwest, Canada's Gaspé Peninsula, and Mexico. The groups of pictures of these regions, in tandem with his documentary work as a filmmaker in the 1930s, convinced Strand that the medium's great purpose lay in broad and richly detailed photographs of specific places and communities. For the rest of his career he generated such works in New England, France, Italy, the Hebrides, Morocco, Romania, Ghana, and other locales, producing celebrated books including Time in New England
(1950) and Un Paese
(1955), about the village of Luzzara, Italy. Together, these projects constitute an expansive catalogue of twentieth-century life, and they form one of the great photographic statements about modern experience.
The Philadelphia Museum of Art has had a special relationship with Paul Strand's work since 1971, when Adjunct Curator of Photographs Michael E. Hoffman organized Strand's first major retrospective since 1945, Paul Strand Photographs
(November 1971–January 1972). In 1972, Strand gave the Museum one of his most important early platinum prints, City Hall Park, New York
(1915), along with six other works, and the Museum purchased ten prints including The Family, Luzzara, Italy
(1953). These acquisitions were followed by further purchases in 1974 and gifts from Strand's widow, Hazel, in 1977 and 1978. In 1980, the artist's estate gave the Museum the entire contents of his retrospective exhibition, which numbered 497 prints and included an unparalleled group of seven of his early exhibition platinum prints, among them the masterpieces Wall Street
(1915), Man in a Derby
(1916), and Telegraph Poles, Texas