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Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg Receives Major Donation of Photographs

Jan 09, 2011
ST. PETERSBURG, PA.- Familiar and Fantastic: Photographs from the Dandrew-Drapkin Donation (February 19-June 12, 2011) celebrates a turning point in the Museum's history and its photography collection. Drawn from major gifts received over the last two years, this exciting exhibition spans more than 100 years and features nearly 100 images. They are part of The Ludmila Dandrew and Chitranee Drapkin Collection, one of the most expansive and finest photography collections in American private hands.
Alphonse Plumier (Belgian, 1819-1877), Modest Mussorgsky and Friend (late 1860s). Daguerreotype. Gift of Dr. Robert L. and Chitranee Drapkin from The Ludmila Dandrew and Chitranee Drapkin Collection.

This is the first in a series of exhibitions that will bring these extraordinary images and the history they embody to a wider audience. Highlights encompass daguerreotypes by Claudel, Mayall, and Root; a rare ambrotype by Mathew Brady; and albumen portraits by Nadar and Etienne Carjat.

There is a stunning albumen print from Louis-Emile Durandelle documenting the construction of the Paris Opera in the 1860s and a selection of significant images from an entire album on the laborious building of the Panama Canal, which was completed in 1914. Margaret Bourke-White's photogravures, made during a daring trip to the Soviet Union in 1932, are particularly memorable. Other twentieth-century photographers represented include Henri Cartier-Bresson, Robert Capa, and Aaron Siskind.

Chief Curator Jennifer Hardin will introduce the exhibition, which she curated, in a Gallery Talk on Sunday, February 20, at 3 p.m. The St. Petersburg Times is the media sponsor of all Museum exhibitions.

Famous figures from the past can be seen in many formats: a half-plate daguerreotype of Russian composer Modest Mussorgsky with a mysterious woman, a double daguerreotype portrait of Prince Frederick and his children, an ambrotype of Cornelius Vanderbilt, an artistic portrait by Alvin Langdon Coburn of the writer Henry James, and cartes de visite of authors Victor Hugo, Benjamin Disraeli, and George Bernard Shaw.

Equally compelling are unknown sitters and subjects whose identities are now lost to history. Among them are dignified portraits of African Americans and Native Americans, engaging images of children, moving documents of male friendship, compelling records of anonymous tradespeople, distinguished professionals, and astonishing photographs of sideshow performers.

In addition, a rare landscape daguerreotype by Gage documents rural Vermont, and pristine albumen prints reveal the splendor of the 1893 Chicago World's Fair. Also included are photographs of the American West by F. Jay Haynes, Carleton Watkins, and Edward Curtis, as well as images of India, the Near East, the Holy Land, and North Africa.

Especially prominent are photographs of Egypt and its antiquities by Antonio Beato and Pascal Sebah and a panorama of Constantinople that measures over 10 feet in length. Fine art photographs by Alfred Stieglitz and Karl Struss are also part of the exhibition.

According to Dr. Hardin, "this collection is rich in imagery by unknown or itinerant photographers, Americana and vernacular works, photojournalism, documentary photography, portraiture, and landscape. It contains almost all known photographic media, from salt prints and daguerreotypes of the 1840s and 1850s to gelatin silver prints from the mid-twentieth century. We are profoundly grateful for the gifts from The Ludmila Dandrew and Chitranee Drapkin Collection, which take our photography collection to an entirely new level."

"These are among the most important and generous donations in the Museum's history," said Director Kent Lydecker. "These images tell the story of the medium and its development from its beginnings to the modern era. The Museum of Fine Arts has long been ahead of its time in recognizing photography's beauty and meaning, and these images provide an even more exciting view of its sweep and drama. We are indebted to the Dandrews and the Drapkins for sharing these photographs with the public."

The photographs were originally collected by Dr. Robert L. and Chitranee Drapkin, longtime friends of the Museum. The Drapkins have donated and lent hundreds of photographs and other artworks to the Museum over the years. Dr. Drapkin is a former trustee, and he and Chitranee are members of the Collectors Circle, a Museum support group. Mrs. Dandrew has artistic talent and interests, including a love of painting and photography. After moving to the area, she and her husband Bruce acquired a large part of The Drapkin Collection.

In 2009, the Dandrews gave approximately 9,500 images to the Museum, dating from the mid-nineteenth to the mid-twentieth century. The Drapkins added 2,900 photographs in 2010. The photography collection now numbers more than 14,000 images, making it one of the largest and most diverse in the Southeastern United States.

Familiar and Fantastic premieres unforgettable photographs and a magnanimous gift to the Museum of Fine Arts.

THE MFA'S PHOTOGRAPHY COLLECTION

Alan DuBois, the Museum's Assistant Director for 18 years, had the foresight to initiate this collection in the early 1970s. This was a time when many museums did not collect photography. Museum Founder Margaret Acheson Stuart (1896-1980) encouraged Mr. DuBois, who received his M.F.A. in photography from Indiana University and studied with Henry Holmes Smith. Even before 1970, he had organized a small Museum exhibition of Paul Strand's photographs.

The first photograph to enter the collection was Harry Callahan's Eleanor and Barbara, Chicago (1953). During the early years, Mr. DuBois also selected images by such masters as Ansel Adams, Minor White, Paul Strand, and Edward Steichen. Ansel Adams was so impressed with the Museum's efforts that he donated photographs to the collection. Mr. DuBois also involved the Drapkins in the life of the Museum.

During her 15 years at the Museum, Jennifer Hardin has been another champion of the photography collection, presenting a wealth of exhibitions and working closely with collectors. With her guidance, the collection has grown dramatically. In addition to the Dandrews and the Drapkins, trustees Carol A. Upham and William Knight Zewadski and new, recent donors Howard Schickler and Larry West have given large photography donations to the Museum.

[From Art Daily]
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