Middlebury College Museum of Art

News & Events

Museum Features Early Landscape Photography

January 3, 2008

“Eloquent Vistas: The Art of Nineteenth-Century American Landscape Photography from the George Eastman House Collection”
January 24–April 20, 2008

For immediate release: 1/3/08
For further information contact: Emmie Donadio, Chief Curator, (802) 443–2240

Middlebury, VT—From Jan. 24 through April 20 the Middlebury College Museum of Art will present the exhibition Eloquent Vistas: The Art of Nineteenth-Century American Landscape Photography from the George Eastman House Collection. The exhibition will feature 78 nineteenth-century photographic landscapes drawn from the Eastman House collection, which holds more than 3,500 prints and 6,500 stereographs of nineteenth-century landscape images.

The American land, expansive, raw, and spectacular, has been a central force in shaping the American culture and forging the American character. From the Leatherstocking Tales of James Fenimore Cooper to the majestic landscapes of Ansel Adams, the land has inspired the creativity of authors and artists and captured our collective imagination. With images ranging from the 1850s to the end of the nineteenth century--and from the East to the vast “new” West--the exhibition reveals this imaginative spirit in images that range from daguerreotypes of Niagara Falls to views of Civil War battlefields and scenes of quiet eastern streams. An expanding network of railroad lines and their promoters provided enterprising photographers with the opportunity to portray graceful bridges and curving valleys lined with small industrial towns. Picturesque waterfalls were meant to draw people to growing towns in the upper Midwest. And images from the geographical and geological explorations of the spectacular West—Yosemite, Yellowstone, the Grand Canyon, and the Green River—remain undeniably remarkable to us today.

Eloquent Vistas includes the well known photographers of the era: Timothy H. O‚Sullivan, Eadweard Muybridge, William Henry Jackson, John Moran, Carlton E. Watkins, William H. Rau, William Bell, and others. These men documented the land for government sponsored geological and geographical surveys, for the railroad companies, and for the tourist trade. Many accomplished their commissions in a truly artistic way, so that today we appreciate their images more for their aesthetic value than for their topographical depiction of place. This exhibition celebrates their achievements.

Not only a treat for the eye, Eloquent Vistas includes text panels that discuss topics related to the exhibition. Among these are the albumen print, photography in the nineteenth century, government surveys, and the role of photography in opening up the West.

The programming sponsored by the Museum in conjunction with the exhibition includes lectures by Middlebury Professor of History of Art and Architecture Kirsten Hoving on Tues. Feb. 12; Middlebury Professor of Humanities John McWilliams on Thurs. Mar. 13; and Amherst Professor of American Studies and History Martha Sandweiss on Thurs. Apr. 10. Please check the Museum website for further information about these public lectures.

The Museum will also offer a related school program for grades 5–12, with self-guided tours for school groups available throughout the duration of the exhibit. For further information or to register for a self-guided tour, please contact Sandi Olivo, curator of education, at (802) 443-2248 orolivo@middlebury.edu.

Eloquent Vistas: The Art of 19th-Century American Landscape Photography From the George Eastman House Collection was organized by George Eastman House International Museum of Photography and Film in Rochester, NY. Its installation at Middlebury is sponsored by the Christian A. Johnson Memorial Fund and the Kireker Family Museum of Art Exhibition Fund.