FITCHBURG, Mass.; Jan. 17, 2012 -- A rare and recently acquired Alfred Stieglitz image, The Steerage (1907), is the centerpiece of "Pioneers in American 20th Century Photography," a new exhibition featuring early 20th Century American photography running from Jan. 22 through March 25 at the Fitchburg Art Museum (FAM).
"Stieglitz's seminal photograph, printed on Japanese tissue paper, is one of only eight existing in the world," says Jerry Beck, the museum's director of marketing and community engagement. "It has been hailed as one of the greatest photographs of all time because it captures in a single image both a formative document of its time and one of the first works of artistic modernism." The scene reveals people traveling in the lower-class section of a steamer going from New York back to Europe. "I saw a picture of shapes and underlying that the feeling I had about life," said Stieglitz.
The new exhibition includes other important photographs, such as Berenice Abbott's Blossom Restaurant, 103 Bowery; Arthur Rothstein's Dust Storm, Cimarron Country, Oklahoma, picturing dust bowl conditions in 1936 America. Additionally, on display is a portfolio of ten photographs, which Rothstein printed from Farm Security Administration negatives in the Library of Congress. These photographs include the work of such greats as Walker Evans, Dorthea Lange and Ben Shawn.
"FAM's photography collection, now comprising more than 450 prints, grew through the help of many museum donors, including major support from Jude Peterson, a private collector," Beck says. "The collection is also an outgrowth of our photography exhibition program." Since the Simons Building opened in 1989, FAM has mounted more than 40 photography exhibitions. Images of Chartres Cathedral and of New York's Lever House by Charles Sheeler stand out as the museum's first photography
FAM also mounted three significant major shows organized by Boston's Navigation Foundation. The first was work by Czech and Slovakian photographers. The second featured images by Russian photographers from the Soviet era and from the newly formed Federation. The third was, "Scotland Calls: One Hundred Years of Scottish Photography."