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A Subtle Beauty: Platinum Photographs from the Collection

October 5, 2014 – January 4, 2015
West Building, Ground Floor, Galleries 22 and 22A

Frederick H. Evans, York Minster, North Transept: "In Sure and Certain Hope," 1902, platinum print, National Gallery of Art, Carolyn Brody Fund and Pepita Milmore Memorial Fund, 2011.18.1

This exhibition is no longer on view at the National Gallery.

Overview: Revered for its permanence and subtle beauty, the platinum print played an important role in establishing photography as a fine art during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Composed of platinum metal embedded in the uppermost fibers of the paper, platinum photographs are characterized by luminous, textured surfaces that vary from a velvety matte to a lustrous sheen. The photographs are also prized for their extraordinary tonal range — from creamy shades of whites to delicate gray midtones and warm, sepia browns to the deepest blacks. These qualities made platinum prints a preferred choice among the pictorialists, an international group of turn-of-the-century photographers who championed the medium as a means for artistic expression. While some pictorialists advocated for the unmanipulated platinum photograph, others experimented with platinum printing by combining it with different processes to create evocative, multilayered works. Drawn from the collection of the National Gallery of Art, this group of outstanding photographs from the 1880s to the 1920s reveals the aesthetic qualities and delicate nuances of the platinum process.

Organization: Organized by the National Gallery of Art, Washington

Attendance: 27,075

Coburn, Alvin Langdon
British, 1882 - 1966
Emerson, Peter Henry
British, 1856 - 1936
Evans, Frederick H.
British, 1853 - 1943
Käsebier, Gertrude
American, 1852 - 1934
Steichen, Edward
American, 1879 - 1973
Stieglitz, Alfred
American, 1864 - 1946
White, Clarence H.
American, 1871 - 1925