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Dreaming in Black and White: Photography at the Julien Levy Gallery
June 17, 2006 - September 17, 2006
Léonor Fini
Léonor Fini
Dora Maar (French, 1907-1997)
Gelatin silver print
Philadelphia Museum of Art: The Lynne and Harold Honickman Gift of the Julien Levy Collection, 2001
© 2005 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris
Dreaming in Black and White: Photography at the Julien Levy Gallery
June 17, 2006 - September 17, 2006
This exhibition celebrates the centenary of the birth of prominent art dealer Julien Levy (1906–1981), one of the most influential and colorful proponents of modern art and photography and an impassioned champion of Surrealism, with a survey of his collection of photographs. Levy's lifelong devotion to the art of photography is represented in more than 230 photographs, many of which are being exhibited for the first time in more than five decades. In conjunction with the exhibition, the Museum is presenting a series of films made by artists affiliated with the Julien Levy Gallery.

Exhibition Minutes

A centenary survey of Levy's collection…
Listen to or download curators Katherine Ware & Peter Barberie's 4-part Podcast.
Available in Exhibition Minutes Podcast - iTunes

Works by more than sixty photographers exhibited by Levy are represented, including American masters Walker Evans, George Platt Lynes, Lee Miller, Man Ray, Charles Sheeler, and Ralph Steiner. Artists working in France and Germany are particularly well represented, including Henri Cartier-Bresson, Dora Maar, Roger Parry, Maurice Tabard, László Moholy-Nagy, and Umbo. Mexican artists Manuel Álvarez Bravo and Emilio Amero round out the international roster. One of the pleasures of the exhibition is work by little-known artists
Arthur Gerlach, Samuel Gottscho, William Rittase, Thurman Rotan, and Luke Swank.

Levy’s collection also includes a cache of ephemeral pictures of every sort, from bygone celebrity portraits and press photos to film stills and everyday snapshots. While he honored the tradition of serious artistic work fostered by Alfred Stieglitz and others, these photographs clearly show he also valued anonymous images and "found objects.”

Another of Levy’s interests—applied photography—is represented in the exhibition in several of its aspects. Examples are on view from the selection of photomurals he organized for the Museum of Modern Art’s 1932 exhibition Murals by American Painters and Photographers. Levy also developed a sample line of household products decorated with photographic designs—including wastebaskets, lamps, and cigarette boxes—with the idea of providing images for textiles and a variety of manufactured goods. Other images were presumably made for advertising or graphic design use, and while their intended context may be lost to us, they stand alone as strong images.

One of Levy’s most famous exhibitions at the gallery was the 1932 show Surréalisme (at the time, he felt that the word could not be translated properly into English). Levy’s offering of Surrealist works, the first to be presented in New York, included paintings, objects, journals, and photographs. While some of the photographs were by artists closely affiliated with the Surrealist movement in Europe, Levy added pieces by those he considered American Surrealists and by others whose work he felt resonated with Surrealist ideas.

Surrealism is a point of view, and as such applies to painting, literature, play, behaviour, politics, architecture, photography, and cinema. — Julien Levy, Surrealism, 1936

Selections from Levy’s survey exhibitions, including American Photography Retrospective; Photographs of New York by New York Photographers; and Exhibition of Portrait Photography, Old and New are on view in conjunction with works that appeared in solo and group exhibitions at the gallery in the 1930s and early 1940s. A highlight of the exhibition is three small boxes by American assemblage artist Joseph Cornell, made to emulate daguerreotypes, an early form of photography. These magnificent objects are one-of-a-kind, made especially for Levy and including portraits of him and his first mother-in-law, Mina Loy. Also on view at the Museum for the first time is a bronze portrait of Levy by sculptor Isamu Noguchi. Letters and photographs documenting the gallery’s heyday (on loan from the Julien Levy Archive) further enliven the exhibition.

The works of art in Dreaming in Black and White are drawn from more than 2,500 images from Levy’s holdings, acquired by the Museum in 2001; in part as a gift from Levy’s widow, Jean Farley Levy, and with a major contribution from longtime Philadelphia residents and philanthropists Lynne and Harold Honickman. A combination of his personal selections amassed over two decades and the remaining inventory from the gallery, these images reflect Levy's adventurous eye and his vanguard contributions to the field of photography.


The exhibition and the accompanying book, co-published with Yale University Press, are made possible by The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation with additional support from Furthermore: a program of the J. M. Kaplan Fund. The book is also supported by The Andrew W. Mellon Fund for Scholarly Publications.


Katherine Ware • Curator of Photographs, Alfred Stieglitz Center
Peter Barberie • Horace W. Goldsmith Curatorial Fellow in Photography


Berman and Stieglitz Galleries, ground floor