Bennington Museum Opens Historic Photography Exhibition
When Laura Gilpin passed away in 1979, most of her negatives, photographs and letters went to the permanent archive at the Amon Carter Museum in Fort Worth, Texas. Three portfolios of photographs were kept by her family. The Bennington Museum will share with the public a selection from these portfolios, some by Gilpin and others given to her by friends and mentors, including Clarence H. White and Gertrude Käsebier. These remarkable photographs will be on view in the Works on Paper Gallery at Bennington Museum through December 30. An opening reception with curator Jamie Franklin and Bennington College faculty member Jonathan Kline will be held from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. on Saturday, October 7.
Clarence Holland White, Gertrude Käsebier and Clara Sipprell were leading members of the Pictorialist school of photography which thrived from 1885 to 1915, espousing the use of natural light to create rich atmosphere and intimate, idyllic studies of friends and family. Many of the photographs in the exhibition are platinum/palladium prints, a darkroom process that Gilpin and many Pictorialists revered for its long tonal scale, frequently hand-coated on fine quality paper.
Käsebier became Gilpin’s mentor when she was just a teenager. As a young woman of 25, Gilpin set off for New York in 1916 to study at the Clarence H. White School where a broader, more democratic ideal of photography was advanced. A high number of women attended; among those was Clara Sipprell, who later lived in Manchester. The school promoted pictorial photography for artistic and commercial purposes, and Gilpin learned that good visual design was essential to anything she did with a camera. She set out to record the Navajo Nation and the landscape of the desert southwest, publishing four books on the subject by the end of her life. Gilpin’s photographs draw their expressive power from her compassionate connection to her chosen subjects. “We hope this connection to her subjects is evident in our selection here, but also representative of the lasting friendship she cherished with some of the early 20th century’s greatest American photographers,” states Kline.
Bennington Museum thanks Jerry Richardson, William Clift, Mary Peck, Martha Sandweiss and Sina Brush for providing recollections of Gilpin’s life, and Brooke Allen, a close relative of Gilpin’s, for allowing the Museum to study this trove of photographs and make the exhibition possible. Further appreciation is expressed to Kline and his ‘Laura Gilpin and the Platinum Print’ class.
Bennington Museum, 75 Main Street/Route 9, Bennington, is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. For details, go to benningtonmuseum.org or call 802-447-1571.