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Maine philanthropists Owen and Anna Wells donate photography collection to the Portland Museum of Art
Eliot Porter, United States, 1901 – 1990, Sunflower and Sand Dune, Colorado, 1959, dye imbibition print, 16 x 11 3/4 inches, Portland Museum of Art, Maine © Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas.

PORTLAND, ME.- The Portland Museum of Art has received a generous gift of 69 photographs from Maine philanthropists Owen and Anna Wells. The collection consists of photographs by well-known 20th-century artists, many with ties to Maine. Forty-five of these photographs will be on view in the exhibition American Vision: Photographs from the Collection of Owen and Anna Wells, which opens at the PMA on December 21, 2013, and continues through February 23, 2014.

“This is one of the largest gifts of photography that the PMA has ever received,” said PMA Director Mark Bessire. “We cannot thank Owen and Anna enough for their generous gift and their support of the museum during the last 30 years.”

Owen Wells, Vice Chair of the Libra Foundation, and his wife, Anna, President of the Board of Trustees at the Portland Museum of Art, are actively involved in the Portland and greater Maine communities through their philanthropic work. They began collecting photography in the 1990s with a concentration on photographers with ties to Maine, and have since expanded their collection to include many of the most important names in 20th-century American art. These longtime museum patrons assembled a body of work that documents more than eight decades of American innovation in photography, from the early 1900s to the 1990s. From monumental landscapes to intimate portraits and domestic scenes of daily life, the Wells collection creates a visual survey of 20th-century photographic practice with artists such as Ansel Adams, Margaret Bourke-White, Paul Strand, Eliot Porter, and William Wegman.

American Vision: Photographs from the Collection of Owen and Anna Wells will feature 45 photographs in an array of thematic, stylistic, and technical trends in American camerawork. In addition to showcasing the remarkable diversity of photographic techniques, American Vision will also explore many facets of 20th-century American life. Iconic images in black-and-white such as Margaret Bourke-White’s Sierra Madre (1935), and meticulously printed color works by Paul Caponigro, among other featured photographs, reveal the camera’s capacity for broad visual expression. Through the lenses of great photographers such as Berenice Abbott and Robert Mapplethorpe, the exhibition will take the visitor from rural scenes of small-town New England to the gritty streets of New York City to the magnificent expanses of American wilderness. The result is a voyage through both the history of photography and the American tradition.

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