Photographs of artists provide a unique and often intimate lens through which the lives and work of modern and contemporary artists can be viewed. Thanks to the acquisition of personal archives, French Salon catalogues, judicious purchases, and donations from artists and their estates, the library’s department of image collections has assembled a significant collection of these photographs, depicting not only artists but a wide array of figures from the art world including architects, artist assistants, critics, gallerists, and art historians.
Photographs of Artists
“When I say I want to photograph someone, what it really means is that I’d like to know them. Anyone I know I photograph.”
Gertrude Käsebier (1852–1934), Hermine Käsebier Turner with Mina Turner on the roof of Gertrude Käsebier’s studio, c. 1909, gelatin silver print
Benjamin Brecknell Turner (1815–1894), Self-portrait, c. 1854, salted paper print
The photographs of artists collection features objects dating as far back as the middle of the nineteenth century. Self-portraits and portraits of fellow artists taken by photographers Benjamin Brecknell Turner and Josiah Johnson Hawes date from the 1850s and 1860s and are particularly early examples of artist photographs. The Galerie Contemporaine Artistique and the Galerie Contemporaine des Illustrations Françaises series, each dating from the 1870s, provide some of the earliest photographic records of famous French artists within the department’s collection. At this time, photography began replacing painting and draftsmanship as a means of faithfully depicting the sitter. Photographic portraits from this period are highly composed and deliberate, owing largely to the necessary exposure time of nineteenth-century cameras. French Salon catalogues, also dating from the latter half of the nineteenth century, offer similar depictions of featured artists posed in professional and studio settings.
Lucienne Bloch (1909–1999), Diego Rivera at the New Worker’s School, New York, 1933, silver gelatin print. Photograph © Lucienne Bloch, courtesy Old Stage Studios
Consisting of photographs assembled from various collections and acquisitions, the photographs of artists collection from the modern and contemporary eras has grown to include photographs of hundreds of different artists in a variety of posed, candid, and working shots. Many of the photographs were taken by anonymous photographers, but the collection also features works in which both the sitter and photographer are known, such as Paul Nadar's portrait of Claude Monet or Lucienne Bloch's images of Diego Rivera, who is shown painting at the New Worker's School in New York.
While most of the Gallery’s artist photographs are stored together by rarity, size, and the sitters’ surnames, additional images of artists can be found in several of the department of image collections’ autonomous archives as well. Some examples of special collections that also contain artist photographs include:
Lucienne Bloch (1909–1999) Archive
Muralist, sculptor, and photographer Lucienne Bloch’s documentary photographs of José Clemente Orozco and Diego Rivera's mural projects. Featured artists: Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo, José Clemente Orozco, Lucienne Bloch.
Gerald L. Brockhurst (1890–1978) Archive
Personal archive of portraitist Gerald Leslie Brockhurst, including reproductions of his work, photographs of the artist with friends and in his studio, and personal papers and correspondences. Featured artists: Gerald Leslie Brockhurst, Edward Hopper, Eugene Speicher, Hipólito Hidalgo de Caviedes. More.
David Finn (1921–) Archive
Photographic archive of David Finn, co-founder of Ruder Finn, Inc., author, and renowned photographer of sculpture. Primarily consisting of photographs of sculpture, the collection also features a significant collection of photographs of sculptor Henry Moore, whom Finn documented toward the end of the artist’s life. Featured artists: Henry Moore. More.
The Graphicstudio (1969–) Documentary Collection
Documentary photographs of the artists working at the famed Graphicstudio, located at the University of South Florida, Tampa. Includes depictions of both the studio’s permanent staff of master printers and assistants as well as visiting artists inspecting their work or overseeing a project. Featured artists (PDF 209KB).
Paul Katz (1942–) Archive
Photographs, negatives, and color transparencies documenting Katz’s friends and contemporaries in the New York art world from the 1960s to the 1980s. Includes views of artists in the process of working, formal portraits of artists, and documentary photographs of artists’ studios and homes. Featured artists (PDF 221KB).
Boris Korolev (1884/5–1963) Archive
Collection of photographs featuring the art and studio of Soviet monumentalist sculptor and teacher Boris Korolev, also including pictures of Korolev posing alongside his art and amongst his students.
Lida Moser (1920–2014) Archive
Photographer Lida Moser's coverage of the American art scene from the late 1940s to the 1980s and the changing cityscape of lower Manhattan. Features a collection of approximately 500 photos and negatives of John Koch, as well as 100 black-and-white gelatin silver prints and negatives of other artists and/or their work. Featured artists.
Leonard Ochtman (1854–1935) Archive
Collection of family photographs from the estate of Leonard and Mina Fonda Ochtman, both American impressionist painters and the founders and active members of the Cos Cob Art Colony and the Greenwich Society of Artists. Also includes photos of their daughter Dorothy Ochtman, who would become an artist of the post-impressionist style. Featured Artists: Leonard Ochtman, Mina Fonda Ochtman, Dorothy Ochtman.
Hilla Rebay (1890–1967) Archive
Collection of exhibition photographs from the Museum of Non-Objective Painting, of which Hilla Rebay was the founding curator and director from 1939–1952. Featured artists: Hilla Rebay.
Shunk-Kender (1958–1973) Photography Collection
Photography by the collaborative team of Harry Shunk and János Kender, depicting the working habits and projects of artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude. Featured artists: Christo, Jeanne-Claude, János Kender, Harry Shunk. More.
William A. Smith (1918–1989) Archive
Portraits of artists in their studios and at home by American artist William A. Smith. Subjects include artists from around the world who were active in the mid-20th century. Featured artists (PDF 217KB).
The Tamarind Lithography Workshop (1960–1970) Documentary Collection
Photographs of students, guest artists, and faculty of the Tamarind Lithography Workshop from the 1960s, under the leadership of artist and founder June Wayne. Featured artists (PDF 212KB).
Benjamin Brecknell Turner (1815–1894) Collection
Archive of photographs by early photographic pioneer B.B. Turner, active from the late 1840s until his death in the early 1890s. Consists of 436 photographs and negatives, representing some of the department of image collections’ oldest holdings. Featured artists: Benjamin Brecknell Turner, Henry Mark Anthony. More.
Monday, noon to 4:30 p.m.
Tuesday through Friday, 10:00 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.
(except federal holidays)
National Gallery of Art East Building
4th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue NW
National Gallery of Art
2000B South Club Drive
Landover, MD 20785
Contact image collections or call (202) 842-6026