By Nancy O’Connor, Williams College M.A. 2011
Working in the Clark Art Institute’s Manton Center for Prints, Drawings, and Photographs, I would often pull out photographs for visiting scholars or classes. This entails sifting through a box of photographs and, upon finding the one needed, placing it on the easel for viewing. Though the works hanging on the walls in the Spaces exhibition are photographs too, they require several hands to maneuver.
Looking at some of the larger pictures such as Höfer’s Igreja da Ordem Terceira Secular de São Francisco Salvador Bahia II, it seems that these works are wholly different from the smaller-sized, nineteenth-century photographs featured in the Clark’s collection. Thomas Struth’s Audience 7 fills an entire wall!
I draw attention to their size, perhaps an overly obvious feature, because it is precisely this that affects how we interact with these works. When walking across the bridge to the main galleries, even before opening the glass doors, we are greeted by one large work (Struth’s San Zaccaria). The details are not immediately decipherable but, nonetheless, the photograph commands our attention from afar.
It is this ability to observe from a distance that these photographs permit, much like we are able to do with William-Adolphe Bouguereau’s Nymphs and Satyr in the room adjacent to the Spaces exhibition. We can appreciate them from multiple distances—whether standing a pace away or across the room. Indeed, we think of them not only in terms of the space within the photographs but also the space of the Clark’s galleries.
In preparing for this exhibition, I worked with the curator to research not only the photographs themselves but also the spaces depicted. This inquiry included Google searches on the Viking ship pictured in Candida Höfer’s Wikingmuseum Oslo I as well as looking through publications on the Venetian church of San Zaccaria.
The search to uncover information on one image even entailed a call to the Oslo Public Library to identify the mural shown in Höfer’s Deichmanske Bibliotek Oslo II (a painting by Norwegian artist Axel Revold). Researching everything from when Michelangelo created the famous statue David (in 1503) to the history of the cloister in Höfer’s Kloster Mehrerau Bregenz, it was clear that this project was different from my usual work as a graduate assistant.
After visiting Pissarro’s People be sure to make your way to the main galleries and find the photographs nestled amidst the Clark’s permanent collection.
The Clark Art Institute’s Manton Center for Prints, Drawings, and Photographs
Thomas Struth (German, born 1954), Audience 7 Florence, 2004. Chromogenic print, edition of 10, 6.07 x 9.65 ft. (185 x 294 cm). Private collection [© Thomas Struth]
Candida Höfer (German, born 1944), Wikingmuseum Oslo I 2000. Chromogenic print, edition of 6, 3.28 x 3.28 ft. (100 x 100 cm). Private collection [© Candida Höfer/VG-Bildkunst, Bonn 2000]
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