Culture & Communication
AT THE J. PAUL GETTY MUSEUM
By Paul Martineau
With an essay by Eugenia Parry and an introduction by Weston Naef
PUBLISHED BY J. PAUL GETTY MUSEUM / MARCH 2016
With more than twenty-six thousand works, the Samuel J. Wagstaff Jr. collection of photographs is the largest single group of artworks in any medium at the Getty Museum. Samuel J. Wagstaff Jr. (1921-1987), an American curator, collector, and the artistic mentor and benefactor of the artist Robert Mapplethorpe, amassed an extraordinary collection of 26,000 photographs between 1973 and 1984, recognizing that photography was an undervalued art form on which he might have a profound impact as a collector. He was mainly attracted to photographs that stimulated his imagination, and his taste ran toward the idiosyncratic — images that surprised him chiefly because he had never seen them before.
In choosing the 147 works reproduced in The Thrill of the Chase: The Wagstaff Collection of Photographs at the J. Paul Getty Museum (March 2016) Getty curator Paul Martineau selected masterpieces as well as images from obscure sources: daguerreotypes, cartes-de-visite, and stereographs, plus mug shots, medical photographs, and works by unknown makers. The latter category contains some of the most outstanding objects in the collection, demonstrating Wagstaff’s willingness to position unfamiliar images alongside works by established masters as well as underrepresented contemporary artists of the time, including Jo Ann Callis, William Garnett, and Edmund Teske.
Master photographers represented in this stunning volume include: William Henry Fox Talbot, Roger Fenton, Gustave Le Gray, Nadar, Julia Margaret Cameron, Alfred Stieglitz, Lewis Hine, Edward S. Curtis, Edward Steichen, Man Ray, Edward Weston, Walker Evans, August Sander, Lisette Model, Weegee, Philippe Halsman, Robert Frank, Dorothea Lange, Irving Penn, Bill Brandt, William Klein, Diane Arbus, William Eggleston, Martin Parr, Larry Clark, among others.
The book includes several illuminating texts that provide insight into the life of Wagstaff who was recognized in photography circles for the pivotal role he played in driving photography’s acceptance as an art form. The texts trace Wagstaff’s passionate and relentless pursuit of collecting photography that began in 1973 with the assistance of Robert Mapplethrope, and continued until his death from AIDS-related complications in 1987.
In his introduction entitled « Recollections of Sam Wagstaff, » Getty curator emeritus Weston Naef writes: « We will be forever grateful to Sam Wagstaff for opening our eyes to the beauty in types of photographs that were once classed by experts as irrelevant to the history of art, and for his ability to recognize the subtle beauties of photographs that were not created as works of art. »
In her essay entitled « Penitent, » author and professor Eugenia Parry writes about Wagstaff’s influence: « He changed the game. That was the talk. But in the early 1970s there was no game. Sam gave photography collection a decisive direction. Curators knew this. ‘He told us what to do and where to go.’ … He was photography’s ‘main disciple.’ How he achieved this distinction was his secret. »
Wagstaff’s collection highlighted in this book spans a broad chronological range from the experimental beginnings of photography in the mid-nineteenth century to the work of contemporary artists active in the late 1970s and early 1980s. This volume serves both as a richly diverse compendium of images and a complex self-portrait of the man who assembled the exceptional collection from which it comes.
The Thrill of the Chase: The Wagstaff Collection of Photographs is published to accompany an eponymous exhibition on view at the J. Paul Getty Museum from March 15 to July 31, 2016; at the Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford, CT, from September 10 to December 11, 2016; and at the Portland Museum of Art in Portland, ME, from February 1 to April 30, 2017.
The Thrill of the Chase book and exhibition coincide with the run of the two-venue museum retrospective Robert Mapplethorpe: The Perfect Medium on view at both the J. Paul Getty Museum and at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art from March 15 and March 20, respectively, through July 31, 2016; at the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Montreal from September 10, 2016, through January 15, 2017; and at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, from October 28, 2017, through February 4, 2018.
Paul Martineau is associate curator in the Department of Photographs at the J. Paul Getty Museum, where Weston Naef is curator emeritus. Eugenia Parry is a former professor of the histories of art and photography at Wellesley College.
J. Paul Getty Museum
244 pages, 9 x 11 inches
166 color and 8 b/w illustrations
ISBN 978-1-60606-467-2, hardcover
US $59.95 X [UK £40.00]
Captions from top to bottom, left to right:
Julia Margaret Cameron (British, born India, 1815 – 1879) Mrs. Herbert Duckworth, 1867, British Albumen silver print, The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
Timothy H. O’Sullivan (American, about 1840 – 1882) Ancient Ruins in the Cañon de Chelle, New Mexico, In a Niche Fifty Feet Above Present Cañon Bed, 1873, American Albumen silver print, The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
Philippe Halsman (American, 1906 – 1979) [Dali Atomicus], 1948, American, Gelatin silver print © Halsman Archive The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
Edward Weston (American, 1886 – 1958) Bananas and Orange, April 1927, American Gelatin silver print © 1981 Arizona Board of Regents, Center for Creative Photography The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
Gustave Le Gray (French, 1820 – 1884) The Great Wave, Sète, about 1857, French, Albumen silver print, The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
Arnold Genthe (American, 1869 – 1942) Edna St. Vincent Millay, about 1917, Toned gelatin silver print, American, The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
Man Ray (American, 1890 – 1976) [Butterflies], 1935 American Carbro print © Man Ray Trust ARS-ADAGP, The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles