On View January 31-May 4, 2014
NEW ORLEANS, LA- More than 200 of the finest and most poignant photographs of the American Civil War have been brought together for the landmark exhibition Photography and the American Civil War, opening January 31 at New Orleans Museum of Art. Organized by The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the exhibition will examine the evolving role of the camera during the nation’s bloodiest war. The “War between the States” was the great test of the young Republic’s commitment to its founding precepts; it was also a watershed in photographic history. The camera recorded from beginning to end the heartbreaking narrative of the epic four-year war (1861-1865) in which 750,000 lives were lost. This exhibition will explore, through photography, the full pathos of the brutal conflict that, after 150 years, still looms large in the American public’s imagination.
“This extraordinary exhibition transcends geographic divisions in its intense focus on the participants in the Civil War,” said Susan M. Taylor, Director of New Orleans Museum of Art. “It becomes an exploration of shared human traits: hope, resolution, stoicism, fear, and sadness. We are delighted to share this important statement about American history and identity with the people of New Orleans and the Gulf region.”
Photography and the American Civil War will include: intimate studio portraits of armed Union and Confederate soldiers preparing to meet their destiny; battlefield landscapes strewn with human remains; rare multi-panel panoramas of the killing fields of Gettysburg and destruction of Richmond; diagnostic medical studies of wounded soldiers who survived the war’s last bloody battles; and portraits of Abraham Lincoln as well as his assassin John Wilkes Booth. The exhibition features groundbreaking works by Mathew B. Brady, George N. Barnard, Alexander Gardner, and Timothy O’Sullivan, among many others. It also examines in-depth the important, if generally misunderstood, role played by Brady, perhaps the most famous of all wartime photographers, in conceiving the first extended photographic coverage of any war. The exhibition addresses the widely held, but inaccurate, belief that Brady produced most of the surviving Civil War images, although he actually made very few field photographs during the conflict. Instead, he commissioned and published, over his own name and imprint, negatives made by an ever-expanding team of field operators, including Gardner, O’Sullivan, and Barnard.
Approximately 1,000 photographers worked separately and in teams to produce hundreds of thousands of photographs-portraits and views-that were actively collected during the period (and over the past century and a half) by Americans of all ages and social classes. In a direct expression of the nation’s changing vision of itself, the camera documented the war and also mediated it by memorializing the events of the battlefield as well as the consequent toll on the home front.
“The massive scope of this exhibition mirrors the tremendous role that photography played in describing, defining, and documenting the Civil War,” said Russell Lord, Freeman Family Curator of Photography. “The technical, cultural and even discursive functions of photography during the Civil War are critically traced in this exhibition, as is the powerful human story, a story of the personal hopes and sacrifices and the deep and tragic losses on both sides of the conflict.”
Ticket prices are $15 for adults, $13 for seniors and active military, and $6 for children. Group rates are available. For more information on group tours, please call 504-658-4136.
Exhibition Organization and Credits
Photography and the American Civil War is organized by The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Major support for the New Orleans presentation is provided by Kitty and Stephen Sherrill and J.P. Morgan. Additional support for the exhibition is provided by Melanee and Steven Usdin.
The exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated scholarly catalogue written by Jeff L. Rosenheim. Published by The Metropolitan Museum of Art, and distributed by Yale University Press, the book will be available in NOMA’s Museum Shop ($50, hardcover). The catalogue is made possible by the Roswell L. Gilpatric Publications Fund.
About NOMA and the Besthoff Sculpture Garden
The New Orleans Museum of Art, founded in 1910 by Isaac Delgado, houses nearly 40,000 art objects encompassing 4,000 years of world art. Works from the permanent collection, along with continuously changing temporary exhibitions, are on view in the museum’s 46 galleries Fridays from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; and Saturdays and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. The adjacent Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden features work by over 60 artists, including several of the 20th century’s master sculptors. The Sculpture Garden is open seven days a week: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. The New Orleans Museum of Art and the Besthoff Sculpture Garden are fully accessible to handicapped visitors and wheelchairs are available from the front desk. For more information about NOMA, call (504) 658-4100 or visit www.noma.org.