Brandt and Weston: Two Geniuses of Photography

"Brandt and Weston: Two Geniuses of Photography offers a unique opportunity to view together the full range of work by these two highly influential masters of photography," said Brian Ferriso, senior director of Curatorial Affairs at MAM. "Both Brandt and Weston are celebrated for their treatment of photography as an art form. These two icons had a huge impact on the art world and how people view photography."

Milwaukee Museum of Art


Bill Brandt: A Retrospective

Bill Brandt: A Retrospective explores the wide ranging work of this British master photographer. Brandt's work is familiar to viewers because he is the inventor of his style - the trademark grainy gray British light evident in his photographs From Brandt's early work that documents fixed social contrasts of pre-World War II life in Britain to his later experimentation with a surreal style, this exhibition spans 50 years of Brandt's far reaching career in an extensive assemblage of 155 vintage gelatin silver prints from the Bill Brandt Archive in London. Brandt's vision, unconfined by easy categories, extends from photojournalism to moody, atmospheric landscapes to stark, revealing portraiture to high-contrast nudes, distorted with very wide-angle lenses. "No other British photographer has made so many memorable photographs as Bill Brandt. He excelled in all fields - social scenes, Surrealism, night photography, wartime documentary, landscape, portraiture and the nude," writes Mark Hayworth-Booth, curator at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

Through his work as Man Ray's assistant in Paris in 1929 and as a freelancer for the Weekly Illustrated in London in the 1930's, Bill Brandt (1904-1983) developed an expressive, high-key style that pushed accepted boundaries of documentary and journalism when photographing the destitute villages and mining towns of northern England. After World War II, Brandt's work underwent a dramatic shift in focus. He left his documentary style behind and returned to his interests in the surreal. Brandt then turned to nudes, portraits and landscapes.

Today, Brandt's formally plastic and haunting nude studies from this period are considered as some of his most innovative work. Brandt defined new territory showing among other things, photography's kinship with sculpture and modernist abstraction. At the same time, Brandt developed the symbolist potential of photography in a series of landscapes inhabited by the spirit of Romanticism.

Brandt's achievement in photography lies in his uncanny ability to uncover the truthful, absurd, dramatic, monumental and transcendent qualities of his subject. The exhibition spans Brandt's entire life's work from the early Paris photographs to the documentary work of the 1930s and '40s, and the later landscapes, nudes and portraits.

Edward Weston: Life Work

Edward Weston: Life Work is a survey of nearly 100 works by this great American artist, containing an outstanding grouping of vintage prints from all phases of Weston's five-decade career. Edward Weston (1886-1958) is often cited as the quintessential American modernist photographer. Weston's work exhibits pure form, a minimalist style and an elegant presentation of form. His work is marked by subtle and rich tonalities that enhance the elegant formal beauty of his subjects. In this exhibition, previously unpublished masterpieces are interspersed with well-known signature images. Grouped into seven major bodies of work, the exhibition begins with his rarely-exhibited early period and ends with his late landscapes of the California coast.

Highlights include a work thought to be Weston's first nude, a striking 1909 outdoor Pictorialist study of his wife Flora. A smoky view of the Chicago River harbor from 1916 pays homage to Coburn and Stieglitz, and anticipates the urban modernism famously captured by Armco Steel, Ohio, 1922, which marked Weston's final break from the confines of Pictorialism and studio work, and the emergence of a sharply focused style. In the 1920's, Weston continued to experiment with pure form and disconcerting scale shifts in his long exposures of shells, peppers, mushrooms, radishes and kelp. The studies segue naturally into a remarkable set of sculptural nudes done in 1933 and 1934. In the mid 1930's and 40's, Weston pulled back and loosened up his style as he turned to the open landscape. The chronological survey concludes with Weston's consummate final photograph, nicknamed The Dody Rocks, Point Lobos (Something Out of Nothing), 1948.

Edward Weston: Life Work is drawn from the significant private collection of Michael Mattis and Judith Hochberg. Most of the works were acquired from members of the Weston family. These include a large collection from his daughter-in-law, Dody Weston Thompson, as well as a Weston family album incorporating rare early self-portraits and landscapes.

Only at the Milwaukee Art Museum Brandt and Weston: Two Geniuses of Photography offers Milwaukeeans and out-of-town visitors alike an escape from the hustle and bustle of the holiday season. Linking the two exhibitions will be a salon-like setting, providing a comfortable and contemplative space for people to view the exhibitions. Visitors can meet in the central area to discuss the art and ideas surrounding them or browse through photography books about these two great masters. In the tradition of great salons as gathering places for artists and literary figures, MAM hosts a series of Salon Nights in the exhibition gallery. Discussions surrounding a variety of topics related to the exhibitions will be held in January and February.