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American Vision: Photographs from the Collection of Owen and Anna Wells

December 21, 2013 - February 23, 2014


The 20th century ushered in pivotal transformations in the medium of photography, with many important developments occurring at the hands -- and via the cameras -- of American artists. American Vision: Photographs from the Collection of Owen and Anna Wells highlighted the dedication of the longtime museum patrons to assembling a body of work that documents more than eight decades from the early 1900s to the 1990s of American innovation in photography. The exhibition featured more than 35 photographs by artists as varied as Ansel Adams, Margaret Bourke-White, Paul Strand, Eliot Porter, and William Wegman, in an array of thematic, stylistic, and technical trends in American camerawork. From monumental landscapes to intimate portraits and domestic scenes of daily life, the Wells collection creates a visual survey of 20th-century photographic practices. The works on view were selected from a generous donation by the Wells of 69 photographs to museum. American Vision: Photographs from the Collection of Owen and Anna Wells was on view December 21, 2013 through February 23, 2014, at the Portland Museum of Art. (right: Paul Caponigro (United States, born 1932), Apple Orchard, Tesque, NM, 1981, dye coupler print, 13 1/8 x 19 3/4 inches. Portland Museum of Art, Maine. © Paul Caponigro.)

In addition to showcasing the remarkable diversity of photographic techniques, American Vision also explored many facets of 20th-century American life. Iconic images in black and white such as Margaret Bourke-White's Sierra Madre (1935), and meticulously printed color works by Paul Caponigro, among other featured photographs, reveal the camera's capacity for broad visual expression. Through the lenses of great photographers such as Berenice Abbott and Robert Mapplethorpe, the exhibition will took the visitor from rural scenes of small-town New England to the gritty streets of New York City to the magnificent expanses of American wilderness. The result was a voyage through both the history of photography and the American tradition. 

In addition to collecting both photography and paintings by artists with ties to Maine, Owen Wells, Vice Chair of the Libra Foundation, and his wife, Anna, President of the Board of Trustees at the Portland Museum of Art, are actively involved in the Portland and greater Maine communities through their philanthropic work. They began their extensive collection by focusing on artists with ties to Maine, but have since expanded their collection to include many other important American artists, as seen in this exhibition. The exhibition is supported by Sheri and Joe Boulos, John and Alison Moore, Larry and Jean Pugh, and Bill and Peggy Ryan. Corporate Sponsor: MaineHealth.

To view object labels for the exhibition, please click here and here.

To view wall panel text for the exhibition, please click here.


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and biographical information on artists cited in this article in America's Distinguished Artists, a national registry of historic artists.

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