New Exhibitions Feature Pioneers in American 20th Century Photography and Treasures from the Arthur Sackler Foundation
On view from January 22 through March 25, 2012
Fitchburg, MA — A rare and recently acquired Alfred Stieglitz image The Steerage (1907), is the centerpiece of this exhibition featuring early 20th Century American photography. This seminal photograph, printed on Japanese tissue paper, is one of only eight existing in the world. It has been hailed as one of the greatest photographs of all time because it captures in a single image both a formative document of its time and one of the first works of artistic modernism.
The scene reveals people traveling in the lower-class section of a steamer going from New York back to Europe. “I saw a picture of shapes and underlying that the feeling I had about life,” said Stieglitz.
This exhibition includes other important photographs such as Berenice Abbott’s Blossom Restaurant, 103 Bowery; Arthur Rothstein’s Dust Storm, Cimarron Country, Oklahoma, picturing dust bowl conditions in 1936 America. Additionally, on display is a portfolio of ten photographs, which Rothstein printed from Farm Security Administration negatives in the Library of Congress. These photographs include the work of such greats as Walker Evans, Dorthea Lange, and Ben Shawn.
Treasures from the Sackler Foundation is the other new exhibition that features over eighty objects from the world-renowned collections of Arthur M. Sackler. This exhibition features vessels from Iron-Age Iran, and bowls, jars, and figures from China, Korea, and Thailand. For more than five thousand years, the ceramics of ancient Iran and South Asian produced beautiful, technically sophisticated, and often amusing works of art, thus establishing a truly one of the most unique and under-recognized ceramic tradition of the ancient world
Most of the fine ceramics of ancient Iran were made for pouring and drinking liquids. The slender beaklike spouts on many vessels produce a thin, arching stream, suggesting a showy presentation appropriate for a religious ritual or social ceremony. Water is a precious fluid in any dry country, and as early as the medieval period was offered from specially decorated or uniquely shaped vessels.
Animal imagery was also a characteristic of ancient Iranian ceramics. Mountain goats, red deer and roe deer, recurring motifs in the ancient ceramics. Potters emphasized the sweep of horns and the tufted fringe of the mountain goat’s beard, a symbol of sexual potency whose horns adorned the walls of Neolithic houses. The deer were depicted as elegant and elusive forest animals, hunted by kings and princes in later times. Honoring these animals in ceramic was a way to transfer their agility and life force to the potter or to the owner of the vessel.
The Arthur M. Sackler Foundation was founded in 1965 by Arthur M. Sackler, M.D. (1913-1987) to make his extensive art collections available for viewing by the general public. He once said, “Great art, like science and the humanities, can never remain as the possession of one individual, creator or collector . . . great art and all culture belongs to all humankind.” The Foundation collection was formed through purchases of art selected by Dr. Sackler and gifts from Dr. Sackler and his family. It consists of over 1,100 works of art ranging from Chinese ritual bronzes and ceramics to Buddhist stone sculpture and the renowned Chu Silk Manuscript, the oldest existing Chinese written document.
Since 1973, the Arthur M. Sackler Foundation has organized numerous exhibitions of the Foundation’s collection and the Arthur M. Sackler Collections that have traveled extensively throughout the United States and abroad. It has also published eleven scholarly art catalogues of the Arthur M. Sackler Collections. The Foundation has donated art to museums in the United States since its inception. Currently the Foundation has works of art on loan to many museums including the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Washington, D.C.; and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.