Middlebury College Museum of Art

News & Events

An Influential Love Story in Black and White

May 15, 2017

The Lovings, an Intimate Portrait: Photographs by Grey Villet
May 26–August 13, 2017

For immediate release: 5/15/17
For further information contact: Douglas Perkins, at deperkin@middlebury.edu or (802) 443-5235

Middlebury, VT—On May 26 the Middlebury College Museum of Art opens The Lovings, an Intimate Portrait: Photographs by Grey Villet in its Overbrook Gallery. The exhibition, which features twenty photographs by Grey Villet drawn largely from his germinal 1965 LIFE magazine photo essay telling the remarkable and epochal love story of interracial couple Mildred and Richard Loving, takes its name from the recently published book, which presents that photo essay in its entirety for the first time. The book, which includes a text by his colleague and widow Barbara Villet, Middlebury Class of 1952, and was designed by their daughter Ann Villet, Middlebury Class of 1987, will be available for purchase through the Museum’s store for the duration of the exhibition, which will remain on view through August 13.

Because their home state of Virginia was one of sixteen in the country that prohibited interracial marriage, the Lovings were legally married in Washington, D.C. in 1958. On returning to their families in Virginia, however, they were arrested on charges of violating Virginia’s anti-miscegenation laws. Ultimately facing long jail terms, they were released on the condition that they left the state. With three children and little means of support away from their home, however, they risked their security and returned five years later to begin an uphill legal battle for the right to live together.

Grey Villet visited the Lovings in the spring of 1965, as their case worked its way through the courts, and his warm and intimate images of their family life in their community document their remarkable bond. As Barbara Villet writes, the “tell of a love story that is still influential in a changing America.”

Two years later, on June 12, 1967 in the Supreme Court case Loving v. Virginia, they were exonerated and the prohibition against inter-racial marriage was abolished.

The photographs on view expand upon those published in Villet’s LIFE magazine article about the couple, which has inspired a television documentary as well as the 2016 Academy Award-nominated film Loving, starring Ruth Negga and Joel Edgerton. These images, the results of Villet’s patient style and preference for using only available light, bear a softness and an intimacy that transport the viewer directly into the heart of the scene.

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photograph of the Lovings by Grey Villet
Mildred and Richard Loving, 1965. Photo by Grey Villet. Used with permission of the Estate of Grey Villet.

The Middlebury College Museum of Art, located in the Mahaney Center for the Arts on Rte. 30 on the southern edge of campus, is free and open to the public Tues. through Fri. from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sat. and Sun. from noon to 5 p.m. It is closed Mondays. The museum is physically accessible. Parking is available in the Mahaney Center for the Arts parking lot. For further information and to confirm dates and times of scheduled events, please call (802) 443–5007 or TTY (802) 443–3155, or visit the museum’s website at museum.middlebury.edu.