“Arnold Newman: Masterclass,” the first posthumous retrospective of Arnold Newman (1918-2006), explores the career of one of the finest portrait photographers of the 20th century. The Harry Ransom Center, which holds the Arnold Newman archive, hosts the exhibition’s first U.S. showing Feb. 12-May 12, 2013.
The exhibition was organized by the American nonprofit organization Foundation for the Exhibition of Photography (FEP) in collaboration with the Ransom Center, a humanities research library and museum at The University of Texas at Austin. The exhibition opened in Germany this spring and will be exhibited in the Netherlands before coming to the U.S.
The show, curated by FEP’s William Ewing, highlights 200 framed vintage prints covering Newman’s career, selected from the privately held Arnold Newman Archive and the collections of major American museums and private collectors. Twenty-eight photographs from the Ransom Center’s Newman archive are featured in the exhibition.
“This retrospective is a real occasion for a reappraisal,” said Todd Brandow, founding director of FEP. “Newman was a great teacher, and he loved sharing his knowledge. It was these ‘lessons’ that led us to the concept of ‘Masterclass,’ the idea that, even posthumously, Newman could go on teaching all of us whether connoisseurs or neophytes a great deal.”
The exhibition includes work prints, prints with crop marks, rough prints with printing instructions and variants that reveal Newman’s process and attention to detail.
A bold modernist with a superb sense of compositional geometry, Newman, called the father of ‘environmental portraiture,’ is known for a crisp, spare style that placed his subjects in the context of their work environments.
“For me the professional studio is a sterile world,” said Newman in a 1991 interview. “I need to get out: Be with people where they’re at home. I can’t photograph ‘the soul,’ but I can show and tell you something fundamental about them.”
“Newman was never comfortable with the environmental term, and the backgrounds of Newman’s portraits would never be secondary aspects of his compositions,” said Ewing. “He had a masterful command of both sitter and setting.”
His subjects included world leaders, authors, artists, musicians and scientists Pablo Picasso in his studio; Igor Stravinsky sitting at the piano; Truman Capote lounging on his sofa; and Otto Frank, father of Anne Frank, in the attic where his family hid from the Nazis for more than two years.
The exhibition takes stock of the entire range of Newman’s photographic art, showing many fine prints for the first time. The exhibition also includes Newman’s lesser-known and rarely exhibited still lifes, architectural studies, cityscapes and earliest portraits.
While at the Ransom Center, the exhibition will be supplemented with holdings from the Center’s Newman archive, which contains all of Newman’s negatives, slides and color transparencies, all of his original contact sheets and more than 2,000 prints, including examples of color and collage work. The collection also includes Newman’s original sittings books, correspondence and business files, early sketchbooks and photographic albums.
Complementing the exhibition are two Newman-related publications. Edited by Ewing, “Masterclass: Arnold Newman” (Thames and Hudson Inc., New York) pays homage to Newman and includes more than 200 photographs, four essays and short biographies of Newman’s sitters. Essay contributors include Ewing; David Coleman, director of the Witliff Collections and former curator of photography at the Ransom Center; and Arthur Ollman, professor at San Diego State University and curator of many exhibitions produced in collaboration with Newman. The book will be available in September.
“Arnold Newman: At Work,” (University of Texas Press and Harry Ransom Center) by Ransom Center Senior Research Curator of Photography Roy Flukinger, provides a contextual overview of the Center’s Newman archive, revealing unprecedented insights into Newman’s process and creativity. Included among Newman’s signature images are his contact sheets, Polaroids and work prints with his handwritten notes. The book will be available in February 2013.
The exhibition can be seen in the Ransom Center Galleries on Tuesdays through Fridays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., with extended Thursday hours until 7 p.m. On Saturdays and Sundays the galleries are open from noon to 5 p.m. The galleries are closed on Mondays.
High-resolution press images from the exhibition are available.