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Illumination of the Eiffel Tower during the Universal Exposition, 1889


The Industrial Age 1750-1900:  Art & Science,  Technology & Society

By Ellen S. Wilson

Through July 29 

The world notices when two museums collaborate on a blockbuster exhibition such as Light!  The Industrial Age 1750-1900: Art & Science, Technology & Society.  Andreas Blühm, head of exhibitions at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam and co-curator of Light! with Louise Lippincott of Carnegie Museum of Art, reported that 268,000 people visited the exhibition in Amsterdam.  “There were more local visitors, more Dutch visitors, and visitors with more wide-ranging interests,” Blühm said.  “It was a different crowd, and that is what we wanted.  Everyone had a different favorite object.” 

During the Amsterdam run, the international press praised the exhibition, and now that it has opened in Pittsburgh (the only other venue in the world), it has been featured on CBS News' Sunday Morning, in the New York Times, the Washington Post, in on-line magazines, and many other media outlets, both local and national.  A lengthy and enthusiastic review by Todd Spangler for the Associated Press should run in newspapers all over the country, a boon for the city as well as the museum.

Beginning, as Spangler points out, with “homage to Isaac Newton” and a rainbow on the walls of the dimly lit gallery, the exhibition spreads out to include early scientific instruments, domestic paraphernalia, and a look at how artists used light, or tried to capture its effects.  The exhibition ties in with the city-wide campaign Pittsburgh Shines, a project of the Greater Pittsburgh Convention and Visitors Bureau Office of Cultural Tourism to highlight city attractions and cultural events.  Here, as in Amsterdam, the museum is expecting not only numerous visitors, but a crowd as diverse as the exhibition itself.

Eastman Johnson,  Jewish Boy,  1852

Round-Up of Summer Exhibitions

Linda Batis, associate curator of fine arts at Carnegie Museum of Art, describes Portrait/Self Portrait as “a look at fame and how it fades.”  The exhibition features works by Dürer, Rembrandt, Degas, Picasso, Mary Cassatt, Winslow Homer, and many other major artists from the Renaissance to the mid-twentieth century in a survey of how the personal and emotional life of the subject can be captured on paper.  While many of the portraits originally depicted the wealthy and powerful, in many cases the celebrity did not last, and the works are enjoyed today more for what they reveal about the artist than for what they convey about the subject.  The exhibition runs through October 14.

In the Heinz Architectural Center, Landscapes of Retrospection:  The Magoon Collection of British Drawings and Prints, 1739 – 1860 and Still Rooms & Excavations:  Photographs by Richard Barnes are both on view through September 2.  The Magoon collection from Vassar College catalogues Britain’s built and natural heritage, an appreciation of which rose during the Industrial Revolution.  Richard Barnes’ evocative photographs document the 1990s’ expansion of the California Palace of the Legion of Honor, and the excavation of the gold rush-era burials field discovered beneath it.

David Carrier is the juror of the 91st annual Associated Artists of Pittsburgh exhibition at the Museum of Art from August 24 - September 24.  Carrier, Professor of Philosophy at Carnegie Mellon University, is widely known for his work in art criticism and his study of the history of art history.

And in the Forum Gallery, the National Society for Arts and Letters exhibition of sculpture will be on view through September 2.  This society was formed in 1944 to sponsor competitions and encourage careers in the arts.  National jurors for this year’s competition included Thomas Sokolowski, director of The Andy Warhol Museum, and sculptor Thad Mosley.

Eugene Smith,  Pride Street,  1955

Dream Street: Photographs by W. Eugene Smith       

November 3 – February 10, 2002

From an early age, photographer Eugene Smith had a vocation: to shoot “life as it is.  A true picture, unposed and real.  There is enough sham and deceit in the world without faking life and the world about us.  If I am shooting a beggar, I want the distress in his eyes, if a steel factory I want the symbol of strength and power that is there.”  These thoughts are recorded in a letter he wrote to his mother at the age of 18.  Smith was driven to carry out his plans; he let nothing stand in the way of getting the shot he wanted, of documenting “life as it is.” 

That same year, Smith dropped out of Notre Dame University and moved to New York to begin photography school.  He quickly lined up a job at Newsweek as well as free lance assignments.  Always single-minded and passionate about his work, and insisting on shooting his pictures his way, Smith lost his job at Newsweek, and gained a well-deserved reputation for being impossible to work with.  This tenacity and insistence on his art served him well, however.  His photographs from World War II, most of which were published in Life, are some of the most dramatic of the period.

Injured by an exploding mortar shell (he had a habit of risking personal safety for a good picture), he worked for Life after his recovery, spending months on minor assignments and bickering endlessly with the magazine’s editors over the layout of his work.  The rigid structure of a weekly magazine could not contain him, and his youthful comments about a steel factory proved prophetic.  Smith’s first freelance assignment after leaving Life was a documentation of gritty, dramatic Pittsburgh in the mid-1950s, and the city, with few pretensions, proved the perfect subject.  This is the first museum exhibition of 200 of the photographs from Smith’s Pittsburgh project.



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