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April 22, 2024

UBS Donates Major American Landscape Photographs to National Gallery of Art

Arthur Rothstein, "Dust Storm, Cimarron County, Oklahoma"

Arthur Rothstein
Dust Storm, Cimarron County, Oklahoma, 1936
gelatin silver print
image: 21.7 x 21.5 cm (8 9/16 x 8 7/16 in.)
sheet: 25.3 x 25 cm (9 15/16 x 9 13/16 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington
Gift of the UBS Art Collection

Washington, DC—The National Gallery of Art has received 166 19th- and 20th-century photographs from the UBS Art Collection—the largest gift from UBS to a museum to date. The group of photographs was assembled in the 1990s by John Szarkowski, a photographer, curator, and former director of the department of photography at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. The gift adds important photographs made by a diverse group of artists who worked throughout the United States and in Latin America. It will allow the National Gallery to tell fuller, more varied, and inclusive stories about how Americans have conceived of, used, and celebrated the richness and variety of the land from the 1860s to the 1990s.

“This wonderful, wide-ranging gift from UBS adds key works to the National Gallery’s photography holdings by a wide range of artists, many of whom were not previously represented in our collection,” said Sarah Greenough, senior curator and head of the department of photographs at the National Gallery of Art.

The gift from the UBS Art Collection includes several photographs by western American photographers—F. Jay Haynes, John K. Hillers, Darius Kinsey, Frederick Monsen, and Isaiah West Taber—who recorded the impact of railroads, mining, and logging on the land in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Other pictures made in the late 19th century, such as those by Henry Hamilton Bennett of the scenic Wisconsin Dells, show how photography was used to transform nature into a tourist commodity. Early 20th-century works by Laura Adams Armer, Jean Bernard, John G. Bullock, Nancy Ford Cones, Martha Hale Harvey, Gertrude Käsebier, William B. Post, Robert S. Redfield, and Edward Steichen evocatively reveal how pictorialist artists presented the landscape in a very different manner from their predecessors. Depicting nature’s quiet corners and intimate vistas, they domesticated and aestheticized the land, transforming it from a symbol of power and awe into one of manicured beauty and peaceful harmony.

A collection of social documentary work from the 1930s and 1940s includes key examples by celebrated Farm Security Administration photographers, such as Dorothea Lange, Gordon Parks, Arthur Rothstein, and Marion Post Wolcott. Many of their pictures poignantly demonstrate how the depleted land could no longer support the inhabitants who depended on it. Two of the most iconic photographs include Lange’s Power farming displaces tenants from the land in the western dry cotton area, Childress County, Texas (1935) and Rothstein’s Dust Storm, Cimarron County, Oklahoma (1936).

Works by photographers such as Robert Adams, Edward Burtynsky, Stephen Callis, Robert Dawson, Terry Evans, Emmet Gowin, Mark Klett, and David Maisel cast a critical eye on the impact of humans on the landscape. Often making aerial photographs, they depict vast stretches of land that have been utterly transformed by human habitation.

The gift also includes work by Latin American photographers such as Manuel Álvarez Bravo, Valdir Cruz, Agustín Estrada, Flor Garduño, Graciela Iturbide, and Sebastião Salgado. Active in Mexico, Brazil, and Guatemala from the 1940s through the 1990s, the photographers made pictures commemorating the earth’s bounties—fruits, vegetables, birds, and fish that help sustain and enrich human life—as well as the people who lived and worked on the land.

About the UBS Art Collection

In 1991 Donald Marron, chairman and chief executive officer of PaineWebber, asked John Szarkowski, the former director of the department of photography at the Museum of Modern Art, to form a collection of photographs that would complement the investment bank and brokerage firm’s holdings of contemporary art. Noting that photography throughout its history has paid particular attention to the ways in which individuals and groups have transformed and celebrated the earth, Szarkowski spent several years assembling a large collection of pictures that explores American land use in a broad sense. He understood that photography’s history, especially in the Western Hemisphere, has coincided with the greatest changes in the use and state of nature, and in our recognition of its importance to human existence. Szarkowski hoped this collection would preserve a cogent selection of pictures that address American land use from the 1860s through the 1990s to contribute to a fuller appreciation of this critical and complex subject. The collection of photographs joined the UBS Art Collection when PaineWebber was acquired by UBS in 2000.

The UBS Art Collection consists of more than 30,000 works, including paintings, works on paper, photographs, sculptures, videos, and installations by artists from around the world, and is widely recognized as one of the most important corporate art collections. The UBS gift to the National Gallery has at its foundation work by some of the most celebrated American photographers of the last 180 years, including Dorothea Lange, Timothy H. O’Sullivan, Alfred Stieglitz, and Carleton E. Watkins. Also included are pictures by lesser-known photographers whose art expands and complicates our understanding of the ways in which Americans have conceived of, cared for, celebrated, and transformed the land around them.

Contact Information

General Information
For additional press information please call or send inquiries to:
Department of Communications
National Gallery of Art
2000 South Club Drive
Landover, MD 20785
phone: (202) 842-6353
e-mail: [email protected]

Chief of Communications
Anabeth Guthrie
phone: (202) 842-6804
e-mail: [email protected]

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