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Pictorial Photographs on View at the Clark April 26 through August 17

For Immediate Release

April 09, 2008

During the first decades of the 20th century, photographers in Europe and America were engaged in a heated debate over the status of photography. A group united to assert their belief that photography should be considered an art form rather than merely a means of visual documentation. Representing this notion, Pictorial Vision: American and European Photography, on view April 26 through August 17, at the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, features 15 photographs dating from the 1880s to the 1920s drawn from the collections of the Clark and the Troob Family Foundation.

Those photographers who believed their medium to be fine art produced “Pictorial” (picture-like) photography, and established international exhibition societies, held salons, and published journals. Inspired by Romanticism, Art Nouveau, and Symbolism, Pictorial photographers mimicked the look of paintings and drawings in their work, manipulating negatives to produce richly toned, soft focus images using a variety of printing techniques. Some Pictorialists, however, advocated “straight,” untouched photography as the most honest approach to making art in this modern medium. Despite these philosophical differences, Pictorialists active during the height of the movement (1880–1920) were linked by a common vision of instituting photography as a vehicle of artistic expression—a belief that drives photographic practice to this day.

Artists represented in Pictorial Vision include Peter Henry Emerson, Eduard Steichen, Alvin Langdon Coburn, George Seeley, Pierre Dubreuil, Alice Burr, Frank Eugene, Felix Thiollier, and Pierre Dubreuil. The exhibition was organized by Sarah Hammond, a second-year graduate student in the Clark/Williams College Graduate Program in the History of Art.

The Clark’s collection of photographs dates from the invention of photography to the early 20th century and now comprises nearly 1,000 photographs. The collection includes important photographs by Gustave Le Gray, Edouard Baldus, Nadar, Eugene Atget, Jacques-Henri Lartigue, William Henry Fox Talbot, Julia Margaret Cameron, Francis Frith, Roger Fenton, Carleton Watkins, William Bradford, Winslow Homer, and Alfred Stieglitz. The Clark has more than 5,000 prints, drawings, and photographs, which are available for viewing by advance appointment.

The Clark is located at 225 South Street in Williamstown. The galleries are open Tuesday through Sunday from 10 am to 5 pm (daily in July and August). Admission is free November 1 through May 31. Admission June 1 through October 31 is $12.50 for adults, free for children 18 and younger, members, and students with valid ID. For more information, call 413-458-2303 or visit www.clarkart.edu.

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