Impressionism in a New Light: From Monet to Stieglitz, on view at Carnegie Museum of Art
May 12August 26, 2012, presents a robust picture of what Impressionism means in art, displaying paintings, drawings, prints, and pastels by major artists alongside works by many of the most famous Pictorialist photographers of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Championed by Alfred Stieglitz, Pictorialists emphasized photography as an act of creating, rather than recording an image, and were among the first to insist that photography join the ranks of the fine arts. In the complex artistic milieu of the period, across media, artists engaged in a visual dialogue with one another, finding similar optical expressions and manipulating light, composition, and subject matter on the canvas and in the darkroom. Impressionism in a New Light recaptures the radical nature of Impressionism in its many meanings and expressions by visually showcasing this dialogue in the exhibition, and with an impressive schedule of programs.
Organized by Amanda Zehnder, associate curator of fine arts, and Linda Benedict-Jones, curator of photography, Impressionism in a New Light focuses on works from Carnegie Museum of Arts distinguished collection, augmented by loans from the Museum of Modern Art in New York, Philadelphia Museum of Art, The Frick in Pittsburgh, and private collectors. The paintings and works on paper represented include Mary Cassatt, Paul Cézanne, Edgar Degas, Paul Gauguin, Childe Hassam, Camille Pissarro, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Paul Signac, Alfred Sisley, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, John Twachtman, Georges-Pierre Seurat, and Claude Monet.
Works by photographers Alfred Stieglitz, Edward Steichen, Gertrude Käsebier, Clarence White, and others who called themselves Pictorialists illustrate the establishment of photography as art equal to painting and the other fine arts. The photographs intermix with pastels, sketches, and prints in a lively display of themes of interest to many artists of the time. Even as painters and Pictorialists approached themes such as urbanization, agrarianism, and the human body with a strikingly similar, painterly aesthetic, debates still raged throughout the larger art world about whether photography functioned to document or to create. According to curator of photography Linda Benedict-Jones, Photography has been presented as an art form in Pittsburgh since the 19th century. In 1904, Alfred Stieglitz was invited to organize an exhibition at this museum, and we were one of the first in the country to recognize photography as a fine art. Even though the Stieglitz exhibition was on view for a mere three weeks, it attracted 11,000 visitors. Our new exhibition allows us to revisit Pictorialist photographs from that era while seeing them in the context of Impressionism, a platform that is rare for photography.
Many of the photographs in Impressionism in a New Light are drawn from the permanent collection of Pictorialist works, including a large donation to the museum by the George Ebbs family in 2007, as well as from the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City and the George Eastman House in Rochester, New York.
For associate curator of fine arts Amanda Zehnder, Impressionism in a New Light: From Monet to Stieglitz will broaden our picture of Impressionism, exploring the radical, avant-garde aspects of Impressionism and the uproar that surrounded it in the late nineteenth century, its unique social scene, and how Impressionist aesthetics apply to many different media.