The Met's 2020 Vision Will Highlight Important Role of Gifts to the Department of Photographs through Two-Part Presentation

The Metropolitan Museum

Unknown artist (American). Studio photographer at work, ca. 1855
Unknown artist (American). Studio photographer at work, ca. 1855. Salted paper print. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, William L. Schaeffer Collection, Promised Gift of Jennifer and Philip Maritz, in celebration of the Museum's 150th Anniversary

Exhibition Dates:
Rotation 1, Photographs, 1840s–1860s: December 3, 2019–May 10, 2020
Rotation 2, Photographs, 1940s–1960s: July 20, 2020–January 3, 2021
Exhibition Location: The Met Fifth Avenue, The Howard Gilman Gallery, Gallery 852

In celebration of The Met's 150th anniversary in 2020, the Museum’s Department of Photographs will highlight the important role of gifts in developing its collection.The first of a two-part presentation that features recent and new gifts, many offered in honor of the sesquicentennial celebration and exhibited at the Museum for the first time, will be on view December 3, 2019–May 10, 2020. This first part of the exhibition—Photographs, 1840s–1860s—will focus on 19th-century photographs from the 1840s through the 1860s, all made in the three decades before the Museum's founding in 1870. Both rotations will play on the association between “2020” and clarity of vision by presenting photography as a dynamic medium through which to view the world, while also honoring far-sighted and generous collectors and patrons. Among other themes, photography’s penchant for self-reflection will be prominent in the exhibition: photographers and their equipment and studios figure in various formats throughout these pictures, in daguerreotypes, tintypes, salt prints, and silver prints.

The exhibition is made possible by the Alfred Stieglitz Society.

By the time The Met first opened its doors in 1870, photography—introduced three decades earlier in 1839—had already developed into a complex pictorial language of documentation, social and scientific inquiry, self-expression, and artistic endeavor. The approximately 50 works on view in Photographs, 1840s–1860s—from examples of candid portraiture and picturesque landscapes to pioneering travel photography and photojournalism—will chart the varied interests and innovations of early practitioners. This display showing photography’s first decades will put luminaries of the medium—including Anna Atkins, Hippolyte Bayard, and William Henry Fox Talbot—into conversation with lesser-known artists, unidentified practitioners, and commercial studios.

The second part of the exhibition—Photographs, 1940s–1960s, on view July 20, 2020 through January 3, 2021—will move forward a century, bringing together works from the 1940s through the 1960s.


The exhibitionis curated by Stephen C. Pinson, Curator in the Department of Photographs at The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The exhibition is featured on The Met’s website, as well as on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter via the hashtag #2020Vision.



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