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The City Beautiful: Photogravures by Alvin Langdon Coburn, 1909–10

January 20–April 22, 2001

In his atmospheric photogravures of London and New York, produced between 1909 and 1910, the American photographer Alvin Langdon Coburn (1886–1966) celebrated the modern city. A member of the Photo-Secession, influenced by Alfred Stieglitz’s call to elevate the status of photography to a fine art, Coburn sought to counter the field’s documentary focus by exploring the expressive potential of the medium. Using such pictorial effects as soft focus and the suppression of detail, the artist provided his own particular vision of the city as a place of beauty, emphasizing natural elements—trees, water, and sky—rather than the gritty reality of the early twentieth-century metropolis. Some 30 cityscapes from the museum’s collection will demonstrate how Coburn employed photogravure, a photomechanical process using printer’s ink, to reveal photography as an art in its own right.

Main Building


Andrea Fredericksen, Andrew W. Mellon Curatorial Fellow in the Department of Prints, Drawings, and Photographs; Katherine Ware, Curator of Photographs

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