Worcester Art Museum

Worcester, MA




Robert Capa: Photographs


See photojournalism at its finest in Robert Capa: Photographs, on view at the Worcester Art Museum April 2 - June 4, 2000.

Capa exposed approximately 70,000 negatives in his lifetime and was called one of the great poets of the camera. While previous exhibitions have explored Capa's importance as a war photographer, this retrospective shows the remarkable range of his work. Drawn from hundreds of previously unseen images, including a set of vintage prints from the collection of his brother, Cornell Capa, this exhibition shows Robert Capa to be one of the great photographers of the 20th century. Approximately 100 images will be on view in Worcester.

Born in Budapest in 1913, Robert Capa created images that have a timeless, universal quality that transcends the specifics of history. He photographed five wars, and his work remains the definitive visual record of the Japanese bombing of Hankou, as well as later events in the European theater of World War II, including the Allied landing on D-Day, the Liberation of Paris, and the Battle of the Bulge.

Away from the front line, Capa counted among his friends an astonishing galaxy of luminaries, including actors Gary Cooper and Ingrid Bergman; writers Ernest Hemingway and John Steinbeck; columnist Art Buchwald; and artists Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse. Many insightful images of these friends are also included in this show. Capa's extended family in Paris included employees of Magnum, the renowned photography agency he founded in 1950. For three years, Capa devoted much time to the agency's business and to recruiting and promoting young photographers. (left: Pablo Picasso and Francoise Gilot (in the background is Picasso's Nephew Javier Vilaro), Golfe-Juan, France, 1948, gelatin silver print, 16 15/16 x 14 inches, Robert Capa Archive at the International Center of Photography, New York, Copyright 1996 Estate of Robert Capa)

Capa hated conflict, and photographed people on both sides of hostilities as individual victims of the destructive forces of war. He emphasized the faces and gestures of men and women hunkered down in foxholes, running wild-eyed from air raids, or sobbing over their losses. When photographing the sufferings of innocent civilians, Capa often turned his lens on children. Although he rarely photographed the dead or grievously wounded, Capa focused more on the survivors who were caught up in the ordinariness of life while surrounded by a maelstrom of destruction. In all, Capa allowed viewers to experience the wars as intimately as if they, too, were embroiled in the anguish.

And yet, while he documented such atrocities, Capa was fundamentally a pacifist. He was buried in a Quaker cemetery at the age of 40 after stepping on a land mine in 1954 while on assignment for Life magazine in Indochina.

Capa's 35mm Leica hand-held camera gave him the mobility necessary to maneuver in dangerous situations. But it was the intimacy, immediacy, compassion, and empathy that characterize his photographs. Capa could empathize deeply with many of the subjects of his photos. He understood rejection when he was exiled from Hungary and forced to flee Germany to escape anti-Semitism. He knew the pangs of hunger when living in Berlin and Paris. And he felt the anguish of losing a lover to the ravages of war, when photojournalist Gerda Taro was killed while covering a battle in Spain.

Robert Capa: Photographs is accompanied by a softcover catalogue with 161 duotone reproductions, published by Aperture in association with the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The book includes a foreword by Capa's close friend, the distinguished photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson; a remembrance by Cornell Capa, the artist's younger brother and the founding director of the International Center of Photography; and a historical essay by Robert Capa's biographer, Richard Whelan.

This exhibition is sponsored by Flagship Bank and Trust Company, The BHR Life Companies, and Wachusett Mountain Ski Area/Polar Corporation. Media support is provided by the Telegram & Gazette. Additional support is provided by the Hall and Kate Peterson Fund for Photography and the Amelia and Robert Hutchinson Haley Lectures Fund. Robert Capa: Photographs, was organized by the Alfred Stieglitz Center of the Philadelphia Museum of Art from the Robert Capa Archive at the International Center of Photography, New York. Initial funding for the exhibition was provided by The Pew Charitable Trusts. The accompanying catalogue, published by Aperture, received the generous support of Lynne and Harold Honickman and of Claire and Richard Yaffa.

See part 1 and part 2 of Capa's life chronology.

Read more about the Worcester Art Museum in Resource Library Magazine.

For further biographical information please see America's Distinguished Artists, a national registry of historic artists.

Please click on thumbnail images bordered by a red line to see enlargements.

rev. 1/15/11

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