University of Delaware
Gertrude Käsebier, Agnes (Mrs. Francis) Lee, Platinum print. Gift of Mason E. Turner Jr.

Photographic pioneer

University Museums receives Mapplethorpe Foundation grant for exhibition catalogue


3 p.m., April 26, 2012--The University Museums has received a grant of $25,000 from The Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation to support publication of a catalogue to accompany an exhibition of works by the American photographer Gertrude Käsebier (1852-1934), set to open in February 2013.  

The University of Delaware holds a unique collection of Käsebier’s photographs and personal papers, donated by the artist’s great grandson Mason E. Turner Jr. of Wilmington, Del. Käsebier was one of the first women to establish a thriving portrait studio in New York City. The photographer Alfred Stieglitz admired her work, which he exhibited in February 1899. He then invited her to become a founding member of the Photo-Secession three years later, devoting the first issue of the Photo-Secession’s deluxe journal, Camera Work, to Käsebier in 1903. Käsebier would eventually break with Stieglitz, but with Clarence White founded the Pictorial Photographers of America in 1916.

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Though best known for her emotionally charged images of women and evocations of motherhood, Käsebier’s work went much further. This exhibition, Gertrude Käsebier: The Complexity of Light and Shade, will focus on the holdings of the University Museums and Special Collections in the Morris Library, to examine both the breadth of her subject matter, from formal portraits to landscape, as well as her experimentation with photographic printing techniques.    

An interdisciplinary collaboration, the catalogue will open with the essay of guest curator Stephen Petersen, who previously worked with the University Museums as guest curator for “Warhol: Behind the Camera,” in spring 2011. 

Another chapter will present the research of UD professors Debra Hess Norris and Jennifer Jae Gutierrez and graduate student Greta Glaser, who have worked with Petersen and the Museums staff on the selection of images, many of which have been examined in the conservation and research laboratories at Winterthur to determine the precise nature of the printing technique used.  

Margaret Stetz, Mae and Robert Carter Professor of Women’s Studies, will contribute an essay on Käsebier within the context of the feminist politics of her day, and Timothy Murray, head of Special collections, will discuss the materials held in the University of Delaware Library, also to be included in the exhibition.

Janis Tomlinson, director of University Museums, noted her gratitude and the importance of this grant: “I am extremely grateful to The Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation for the significant funding given to support this project. This support attests to the quality of the unique materials held by the University. I am also indebted to the team of scholars working on this project, which advances one of the Museum’s strategic goals: to make its collections and resources better known to students, scholars and the general public.” 

The Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation provides gifts in two fields: medical research directed toward the cure and treatment of AIDS and HIV infection and the advancement of photography at the institutional level.

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