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Phillips Collection exhibition questions modern definition of portraiture
Tina Barney, The Orange Room (from The Europeans), 1996. Chromogenic print, 30 x 40 in. Courtesy Tina Barney / Janet Borden Inc., NY.

WASHINGTON, DC.- This fall, works from the collection of Joseph and Charlotte Lichtenberg highlight the complexities of the artist/sitter relationship and questions how we define portraiture. Comprised of 16 photographs and one etching, Shaping a Modern Identity: Photographs from the Joseph and Charlotte Lichtenberg Collection is on view at The Phillips Collection Oct. 24, 2013–Jan. 12, 2014.

Spanning from the 1920s to the present, this exhibition expands our understanding of portraiture as an invention forged between artist and subject. Created by a diverse group of celebrated photographers including Ansel Adams, Tina Barney, Chuck Close, Imogen Cunningham, and Francesca Woodman, the images depict subjects ranging from well-known artistic and literary figures to anonymous men and women from all walks of life.

“We are delighted to again feature works from the Lichtenbergs’ wide-ranging collection, in the fourth such exhibition at the Phillips,” says Associate Curator for Research Susan Behrends Frank. “These 17 works offer a rich range of interpretations on portraiture and a thoughtful balance of differing artistic approaches to the genre.”

A variety of these interpretations are included in the exhibition. Some artists return again and again to intimately familiar subjects, as is the case in Sally Mann’s images of her children’s daily life and Harry Callahan’s photographs of his wife, who was his artistic muse. For others, the sitter is a complete stranger, as in Andres Serrano’s heroic portrait of a homeless man in a New York City subway. Still others look inward; featured in the exhibition are two self-portraits—one an early photograph by the young Francesca Woodman, the other a late etching by Lucian Freud—that reveal highly personal glimpses into the artists’ psyche.

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