At Large  June 6, 2017

Innovative American Photographer Clarence H. White Receives First Retrospective in a Generation

The vision and legacy of photographer Clarence H. White (1871–1925), a leader in the early twentieth-century effort to position photography as an art, will be the focus of a major traveling exhibition organized by the Princeton University Art Museum. The first retrospective devoted to the photographer in over a generation, Clarence H. White and His World: The Art and Craft of Photography, 1895–1925 will survey White’s career from his beginnings in 1895 in Ohio to his death in Mexico in 1925.

On view at the Princeton University Art Museum from October 7, 2017, through January 7, 2018, the exhibition will draw on the Clarence H. White Collection at the Museum and the deep holdings at the Library of Congress as well as loans from other public and private collections. Clarence H. White and His World reasserts White’s place in the American canon and, in the process, reshapes and expands our understanding of early twentieth-century American photography.

White’s career spans the radical shifts in photographic styles and status from the Kodak era of the 1890s; the corresponding fight for art photography primarily associated with his friend and fellow photographer Alfred Stieglitz; and the postwar rise of advertising and fashion photography. While living in a small town in Ohio, White received international recognition for his beautiful scenes of quiet domesticity and his sensitivity to harmonious, two-dimensional composition. With his move to New York in 1906, he became renowned as a teacher, first at Teachers College with Arthur Wesley Dow, then in the summer school he established in Maine, and finally with the Clarence H. White School of Photography, founded in 1914. Among his students were some of the most influential artistic and commercial photographers of the early twentieth century: Laura Gilpin, Doris Ulmann, Paul Outerbridge, Ralph Steiner, Margaret Watkins, Dorothea Lange, Karl Struss, Anton Bruehl and hundreds more who did not become professional photographers but were shaped by White’s belief that art could enrich the lives of everyday Americans.

“The goal of the exhibition is to locate White’s own diverse and rich body of work within a period of great social and aesthetic change, from the Gilded Age to the Roaring Twenties,” said Anne McCauley, exhibition curator and David Hunter McAlpin Professor of the History of Photography and Modern Art at Princeton. “Far from staying stuck in the nineteenth century, White embraced new media like cinema and new commercial uses for photography, including fashion and advertising.”

The exhibition will feature photographs by White’s fellow Photo-Secessionists and his students as well as a selection of paintings and prints by other artists whom he knew and admired, and was influenced by or whose work he shaped, including William Merritt Chase, Thomas Dewing, Max Weber, Edmund Tarbell and John Alexander.

Also explored within the exhibition are White’s links to the American Arts and Crafts movement, his embrace of socialism, his radically modern representations of childhood, and his complicated printing and framing processes. Of particular note is his lifelong investment in photographing the nude model, culminating in series that he made with Alfred Stieglitz in 1907 and with Paul Haviland in 1909, brought together here for the first time.

 “As an artist and a teacher, White emerges as one of the essential American innovators of the early twentieth century, dedicated to the creation of beauty,” notes James Steward, Nancy A. Nasher–David J. Haemisegger, Class of 1976, Director. “Through significant new archival research and bringing together works not seen in one setting since the artist’s lifetime, this exhibition and publication aim to reaffirm White’s astonishing accomplishments.”

After premiering at the Princeton University Art Museum, the exhibition travels to the Davis Museum, Wellesley College (February 7–June 3, 2018), the Portland Museum of Art, Maine (June 30–September 16, 2018) and the Cleveland Museum of Art (October 21, 2018–January 21, 2019).

The exhibition is accompanied by a sumptuous 400-page catalogue by Anne McCauley, published by the Princeton University Art Museum and distributed by Yale University Press, with contributions by Peter C. Bunnell, Verna Posever Curtis, Perrin Lathrop, Adrienne Lundgren, Barbara L. Michaels, Ying Sze Pek and Caitlin Ryan.

Clarence H. White and His World: The Art and Craft of Photography, 1895–1925 has been made possible by generous support from the Henry Luce Foundation; the Barr Ferree Foundation Fund for Publications, Department of Art and Archaeology, Princeton University; the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Publications Fund; Christopher E. Olofson, Class of 1992; and William S. Fisher, Class of 1979, and Sakurako Fisher, through the Sakana Foundation. Additional support has been made possible by the Kathleen C. Sherrerd Program Fund for American Art; Susan and John Diekman, Class of 1965; the Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation; the New Jersey State Council on the Arts; the Allen R. Adler, Class of 1967, Exhibitions Fund; the Frederick Quellmalz, Class of 1934, Photography Fund; the Sara and Joshua Slocum, Class of 1998, Art Museum Fund; and Blair Moll, Class of 2010, through the Bagley and Virginia Wright Foundation. Further support has been provided by the Dean for Research Innovation Fund, Princeton University, and by the Partners and Friends of the Princeton University Art Museum.

About the Princeton University Art Museum

With a collecting history that extends back to 1755, the Princeton University Art Museum is one of the leading university art museums in the country, with collections that have grown to include nearly 100,000 works of art ranging from ancient to contemporary art and spanning the globe.

Committed to advancing Princeton’s teaching and research missions, the Art Museum also serves as a gateway to the University for visitors from around the world. Intimate in scale yet expansive in scope, the Museum offers a respite from the rush of daily life, a revitalizing experience of extraordinary works of art and an opportunity to delve deeply into the study of art and culture.

The Princeton University Art Museum is located at the heart of the Princeton campus, a short walk from the shops and restaurants of Nassau Street. Admission is free. Museum hours are Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Thursday 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.; and Sunday 1 to 5 p.m. The Museum is closed Mondays and major holidays.