Heckscher Museum of Art

Huntington, Long Island, NY




Hans Namuth: Portraits


"Hans Namuth: Portraits," at the Heckscher Museum of Art from August 19, 2000 through October 29, 2000, includes photographs of icons of 20th-century arts and culture, among them writers John Steinbeck, Edward Albee, and John O'Hara; architects Philip Johnson and Mies Van Der Rohe; composers Oscar Hammerstein, Richard Rogers, and Stephen Sondheim, and painter Jackson Pollock. The exhibition of 75 photographs, taken between 1950 and 1989, was organized by the National Portrait Gallery of the Smithsonian Institution.

While Hans Namuth's photographs of Jackson Pollock are probably the best known of his body of work, the photographer also created perceptive portraits of many of the leading artists, writers, architects, and composers of his time. Namuth had a particular affinity for visual artists. His lens often focused on those working in what was then the new Abstract Expressionist school: Barnett Newman, Mark Rothko, Willem de Kooning, Robert Motherwell, Elaine de Kooning, and Lee Krasner; and also on highly individual artists such as Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg whose work represented the antithesis of Abstract Expressionism; realist painters such as Edward Hopper and Ben Shahn; sculptors Isamu Noguchi and Louise Nevelson; and Harlem Renaissance artist Romare Bearden. (left: Louise Nevelson (1899-1988), 1977, Cibachrome print)

Hans Namuth was born in Germany in 1915. He demonstrated an early interest in art, music, and literature. Following his arrest in 1833 for distributing anti-Hitler pamphlets, Namuth was spirited out of the country, arriving in Paris at age 18 where he supported himself in a variety of jobs. One of his fellow emigres, the photographer Georg Reisner, taught Namuth the craft that would sustain him the rest of his life. Reisner and Namuth worked together as photojournalists in Paris and in Spain, during the Spanish Civil War. In 1941, following a stint with the French Foreign Legion, Namuth left Europe for the United States where he joined the military intelligence service. His post-war classes at the New School for Social brought him back to photography, first in the fashion and advertising worlds, and then to Jackson Pollock and the work for which he became famous. Namuth remained active as a photographer until his death in 1990.

As a companion to "Hans Namuth: Portraits," the Heckscher is offering "Pollock to Wyeth: American Masters", an exhibition of paintings, prints, and sculpture by some of the famed artists photographed by Namuth, among them Jackson Pollock, Edward Hopper, Romare Bearden, Mark Rothko, Robert Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns, Isamu Noguchi, Roy Lichtenstein, Willem de Kooning, and Andrew Wyeth.

Read more in Resource Library Magazine about the Heckscher Museum of Art.

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This page was originally published in Resource Library Magazine. Please see Resource Library's Overview section for more information. rev. 3/2/11

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