Dorrance Special Exhibition Galleries, first floor
This major retrospective presents the work of a critical figure in the history of modern art, American photographer and filmmaker Paul Strand (1890–1976), whose archive of nearly 4,000 prints stands as a cornerstone of the Museum's collection. Emphasizing the influential artist's most important projects from the 1910s through the 1960s, the exhibition surveys Strand's entire life's work, including his breakthrough trials in abstraction and candid street portraits, close-ups of natural and machine forms, and extended explorations of the American Southwest, Mexico, New England, France, Italy, Scotland, Egypt, Morocco, Ghana, and Romania.
This exhibition includes approximately 250 of Strand's finest prints, selected primarily from the Museum's holdings, with important early prints from public and private collections. The wide range of imagery highlights how Strand radically changed his work at several key moments in an effort to identify photography's pivotal role as a means of understanding and describing the modern world. The exhibition also features works by fellow artists from the Alfred Stieglitz circle (Georgia O'Keeffe, John Marin, and Arthur Dove), screenings of Strand's films, and a selection of archival materials.
The Paul Strand Collection at the Philadelphia Museum of Art
Paul Strand had a long and prolific career in which he took thousands of photographs over the course of six decades. The Paul Strand Collection at the Philadelphia Museum of Art comprises prints from a majority of his negatives, including variants and croppings of individual images, making the Museum the world's largest and most comprehensive repository of Strand's work.
Philadelphia Museum of Art (October 21, 2014–January 4, 2015)
Fotomuseum Winterthur, Switzerland (March 7–May 17, 2015)
Fundación MAPFRE, Madrid (June 3–August 23, 2015)
The Victoria and Albert Museum, London (March 19–July 3, 2016)
Get a sneak peek at works in this exhibition.
Having come of age in the New York photography scene spearheaded by Alfred Stieglitz, Paul Strand explored the modernist possibilities of the camera more fully than any other artist before 1920. He mastered the prevailing Pictorialist aesthetic in his early twenties, and then between 1915 and 1917 produced images that variously explored abstraction, the modern American landscape, and close-up portraits of anonymous urban subjects. These pictures helped establish photography's significance as a modern art form, and they influenced an entire generation of photographers. Soon after these experiments, Strand embraced filmmaking, collaborating with American painter Charles Sheeler to make Manhatta (1921), often hailed as the first avant-garde film. He also embarked on an investigation of the large-format camera's optical power in portraits and studies of machines and natural forms. Perhaps influenced by his film work, Strand began to explore the potential of photographic series on trips to the American Southwest and Canada's Gaspé Peninsula in the late 1920s and early 1930s. In 1932 he relocated to Mexico, where he advanced his efforts to create photographic series and at the same time began to contemplate the political purposes of film and photography, as seen in his second major film, Redes (released in the United States as The Wave) (1936). Returning to the United States in 1935, Strand became a founder of Frontier Films in 1936, and over the next six years directed and shot documentaries—including the film masterpiece Native Land (1942)—that addressed the rise of fascism around the globe and threats to civil liberties in the United States. In the midst of World War II, he returned to still photography, eventually relocating to France in 1950 in response to a political climate that had become increasingly hostile to the American Left. In the last three decades of his life, Strand pursued extended projects in New England, France, Italy, the Hebrides (off the coast of Scotland), Egypt, Morocco, Ghana, and Romania, exploring the particular ways that history and modernity blended in each. Strand conceived these projects as books, which became the most important form of presentation for his work from 1950 onward. During these years, he also made a remarkable suite of photographs within the confines of his garden in Orgeval, France, a personal counterpoint to his travel projects.
The international tour is organized by the Philadelphia Museum of Art in collaboration with Fundación MAPFRE and made possible by the Terra Foundation for American Art.
Peter Barberie, The Brodsky Curator of Photographs, Alfred Stieglitz Center; with Amanda Bock, Project Assistant Curator