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The Street, Fifth Avenue

Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864–1946). The Street, Fifth Avenue, 1896. Photogravure, 26 x 19 1/2 inches (66 x 49.5 cm). Collection Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York; General Fund, 1911 (1911:9.11). 

Collection Spotlight: Photography

April 11, 2011

The Albright-Knox enjoys a long and distinguished tradition of collecting photography and photo-based artworks, from some of the earliest objects that entered the collection—a series of photographic portraits by David Octavius Hill—to more recent acquisitions by contemporary artists such as Robert Calafiore, Justine Kurland, and Alec Soth.

With nearly 600 objects among its current holdings, the museum’s photography collection can be traced as far back as 1910: a landmark year in both the history of the museum and the history of the photographic medium. It was then that the museum hosted the groundbreaking International Exhibition of Pictorial Photography (November 3–December 1, 1910)—the first show organized by an American museum that aimed to elevate photography’s stature from a purely scientific pursuit to a visual form of artistic expression.

The Albright-Knox is proud to preserve this important moment in our collective memory, one that is carefully documented within the museum’s Archives Collection. Highlights from the archival files include an exchange of correspondence between the acclaimed American photographer Alfred Stieglitz, who was invited to serve as guest curator, and the museum’s director at the time, Cornelia Bentley Sage Quinton, who, through the encouragement of her friend, the photographer Alvin Langdon Coburn, enthusiastically supported this major international exhibition. Stieglitz was a compelling advocate of the Photo-Secessionist and Pictorialist photography movements in the United States and promoted them vigorously in Camera Work, the influential journal that he founded and edited. Camera Work also served as a platform for discussions on the theoretical, technical, and aesthetic aspects of modern photography.

According to the accompanying catalogue, the central aim of the International Exhibition of Pictorial Photography was “to sum up the development and progress of photography as a means of pictorial expression.” The exhibition was divided into two parts: an Invitation Section—consisting “largely of the work of photographers of international reputation, American and foreign, whose work has been the chief factor in bringing photography to the position to which it has now attained;” and an Open Section in order “to give all American photographers an opportunity of being represented . . . [if] proved to be of a sufficiently high standard to link it with the spirit and quality of the Invitation Section.”

The exhibition was brilliantly installed by the painter Max Weber, who transformed “the most beautiful gallery in America,” as Stieglitz once described the museum, into an intimate space for the viewing and understanding of contemporary photography. In total, Stieglitz’s “Buffalo Show” introduced the museum’s audience to more than six hundred photographs by sixty-five artists. The museum ultimately acquired (through purchase or gift) many of the most notable photographic works from the exhibition, including James Craig Annan’s Lombardy Ploughing Team, 1894; Heinrich Kühn’s Still Life, 1908; Edward Jean Steichen’s Nocturne-Orangerie Staircase, Versailles, ca. 1910; Alfred Stieglitz’s The Street, Fifth Avenue, 1896; and Clarence Hudson White’s The Chiffonier, 1904.

Lombardy Ploughing Team

James Craig Annan (Scottish, 1864–1946). Lombardy Ploughing Team, 1894. Carbon print, 4 1/2 x 10 1/2 inches (11.4 x 26.7 cm). Collection Albright-Knox Art Gallery. Gift of the artist, 1911.

Still Life

Heinrich Kühn (Austrian, born Germany, 1866–1944). Still Life, 1908. Gum bichromate print, 6 3/4 x 9 inches (17.1 x 22.9 cm). Collection Albright-Knox Art Gallery; General Fund, 1911.

Glass Arrangement #1

Robert Calafiore (American, born 1965). Glass Arrangement #1, 2010. Chromogenic color print, 40 x 32 inches (101.6 x 81.3 cm). Collection Albright-Knox Art Gallery. Charles W. Goodyear Fund, by exchange, 2010. © 2010 Robert Calafiore.

Nocturne—Orangerie Staircase, Versailles

Edward Steichen (American, 1879–1973). Nocturne-Orangerie Staircase, Versailles, ca. 1910. Gum bichromate print, 18 1/4 x 21 1/2 x 1 1/8 inches (46.4 x 54.6 x 2.9 cm). Collection Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York; General Fund, 1911 (1911:9.10).

Buses on the Farm

Justine Kurland (American, born 1969). Buses on the Farm, 2003. Chromogenic color print, edition AP 1, 17 3/4 x 22 1/2 inches (45.1 x 57.2 cm). Collection Albright-Knox Art Gallery; Sherman S. Jewett Fund, Kirchofer Trust and Irene Pirson Macdonald Fund, 2010. © 2003 Justine Kurland.

The Chiffonier

Clarence Hudson White (American, 1871–1925). The Chiffonier, 1904. Platinum print, 9 1/2 x 7 1/2 inches (24.1 x 19.1 cm). Collection Albright-Knox Art Gallery; General Fund, 1911. 

Inhabit

Janine Antoni (Bahamian, born 1964). Inhabit, 2009. Digital chromogenic color print, edition: 2/3 plus 2 artist's proofs, 116 1/2 x 72 inches (296 x 183 cm). Collection Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York; Charles Clifton Fund, 2010 (P2010:5). © Janine Antoni. Image courtesy of the artist and Luhring Augustine. New York.

Correspondence from Cornelia Bentley Sage (Quinton) (1876 or 1880–1936) to Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864–1946). Collection Albright-Knox Art Gallery Archives.

Correspondence from Cornelia Bentley Sage (Quinton) (1876 or 1880–1936) to Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864–1946). Collection Albright-Knox Art Gallery Archives.

Correspondence from Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864–1946) to Cornelia Bentley Sage (Quinton) (1876 or 1880–1936). Collection Albright-Knox Art Gallery Archives.

Correspondence from Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864–1946) to Cornelia Bentley Sage (Quinton) (1876 or 1880–1936). Collection Albright-Knox Art Gallery Archives.

Cover of Camera Work, edited and published by Alfred Stieglitz. Courtesy Albright-Knox Art Gallery Digital Assets Collection and Archives.

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