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PHOTOGRAPHS BY GERTRUDE KÄSEBIER AT MORAVIAN COLLEGE
Exhibit showcases influential American artist who captured the lives of women
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE -- The works of Gertrude Käsebier, the notable American pictorialist photographer and the first of this country’s important women of the camera, will be on display at Moravian College, where she was a student in the 1860s. Not since 1992, when the Museum of Modern Art gave her a retrospective, has a larger collection of her work been on view.
"Minding Gertrude Käsebier: Photographs of Conscience and Consequence," curated by the College’s photographer-in-residence, Jeff Hurwitz, will be shown March 13-April 13 at Payne Gallery. Because the opening date comes during the College’s spring break, the opening reception will occur at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, March 20.
Companion events include an address by Barbara Michaels, author of the definitive biography of Käsebier, and a lecture-demonstration by photographer Sarah van Keuren on the gum bichromate printing process, of which Käsebier made extensive use.
The exhibit brings together almost 60 works by this important figure in the development of photography. It is made possible by a generous loan from the University of Delaware’s collection of Käsebier photographs and memorabilia, which were donated by her great-grandson, Mason Turner Jr., and work from the collection of Moravian College.
Though the United States produced the first important documentary photographer in Matthew Brady, Käsebier (1852-1934) was the initial important female voice in the field of fine art photography. Her works occupy a place between those of Julia Margaret Cameron, the fantasy-photographer of Victorian England, and the great imagists who succeeded her, Berenice Abbott and Imogen Cunningham, who said as a student: "I wish I could be as good as Gertrude Käsebier."
Käsebier was a member of the Photo-Secession, a group of pioneers in pursuit of photography as an expressive medium of art who clustered around Alfred Stieglitz. Significantly, her work was featured in the first issue of Stieglitz’s journal Camera Work.
Married and the mother of three, Käsebier nonetheless made a living (despite her husband’s objections) as a portrait photographer in New York. Her artistic focus was on portraiture and the lives of women and children, which often invokes comparison with the artist Mary Cassatt. Käsebier, who drew her images from the real world but often boldly manipulated her prints, said her art depended on knowing "what to leave out."
For Hurwitz, a photographer whose own work is concerned with family and sense of place, Käsebier represents an important predecessor in the field of art photography. But he became especially interested in her work when he learned from a student’s report in one of his introductory photography courses that Käsebier had attended Moravian Female Seminary, the girls’ secondary school that later became Moravian College for Women, from 1868 to 1870.
• Barbara Michaels, author of Gertrude Käsebier: The Photographer and Her Photographs (1992), will speak at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, March 20, in Foy Hall, adjacent to Payne Gallery.
• Photographer Sarah van Keuren, who has helped to revive the gum bichromate process in which Käsebier often worked, will discuss her own work and demonstrate this historic technique at 11 a.m. Tuesday, March 25, at the gallery.
Payne Gallery is part of the Priscilla Payne Hurd Campus of Moravian College. It is on Church Street in downtown Bethlehem. Hours are 11:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m. Tuesdays through Sundays. It is closed Mondays and major holidays. Information and directions: (610) 861-1680, weekend (610) 861-1667, or www.moravian.edu.