McMullen Exhibit To Display Interwar Photography

Starting Feb. 15 and continuing through June 8, the McMullen Museum of Art will transition into its next exhibit, “Paris Night and Day: Photography between the Wars”-a collection of images taken by Paris-based photographers between 1918 and 1939.

The diverse arrangement of post-World War I Paris photographs was the result of the photographic technology of the time beginning to take form, which allowed users to capture moments of spontaneity in daily Parisian life.

Others within the 20th-century Parisian context used advanced equipment to capture moments of nightlife, expanding their photographic reach to night clubs, dancehalls, and theaters.

The exhibition’s featured artists include Henri Cartier-Bresson, Jacques-Henri Lartigue, Ilse Bing, Bill Brandt, Dora Maar, and Man Ray-the American modernist photographer who made notable contributions within the fields of Dada and Surrealist art. All of the photographers used their artistic abilities through darkrooms and innovative techniques to depict subjects in an unprecedented way.

“The McMullen is pleased to present the research undertaken by Ash Anderson and his students on the superb photographs from the collection of Michael Mattis and Judith Hochberg,” said Nancy Netzer, professor of art history and director of the McMullen Museum, in a statement to the Office of News and Public Affairs.

“The collection includes several master prints: the best examples of well-known and celebrated 20th-century photographs.”

Comprised of more than 100 original pieces, the exhibition is largely from the private collection of Michael Mattis, a former lab physicist-turned full-time art collector, and his wife, Judith Hochberg. Part-time history of photography teacher in the fine arts department and exhibition curator Ash Anderson will also be leading students in research on the photographs that will be presented by the McMullen Museum throughout the exhibition.

The structure and layout of the exhibit, organized by Anderson and his students, also shapes the way viewers pace the gallery by being categorized into nine sections: Setting the Stage; New Visions; The Theater of the Street; Something which is not in the Louvre; The Avant-Garde Circle: Artists before the Lens; Seeing Photographically; The Manipulated Photograph; Paris at Night; and Camera as Voyeur: Looking behind the Scenes.

“This exhibition offers the rare opportunity to consider both canonical and rarely seen photographs from this unusually rich period in the history of photography,” Anderson said in a press release from the McMullen Museum. “These pictures illustrate a complex evolution in the ways photographers defined themselves in relation to art.

“We see them simultaneously looking to photography’s past for inspiration and playfully testing the limits of their medium,” he said. “We are delighted to feature some exceptionally beautiful examples of these photographs.”

Anderson defines much of the inspiration of the artists as being derived from a desire to take more risks. The museum recognizes the works of the featured photographers as a separation from a time before the First World War-a time when artists could utilize original methods of capturing modern subjects.

“This period is one in which the photographers took real risks in their effort to produce modern images,” Anderson said in the museum’s press release. “In the wake of World War I they had an opportunity to break away from tradition and redefine photography’s relationship to art, and they did so with a combination of enthusiasm and endless experimentation.”

“Paris Night and Day” marks the museum’s second major exhibition of the 2013-14 academic year and the 55th since the museum’s inception. The exhibited artwork is underwritten by Boston College, the patrons of the McMullen Museum, and the Newton College Class of 1964.

Admission to the gallery is free and open Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. The museum will host a public reception on Monday, Feb. 17 from 7 to 9:30 p.m. in Devlin 101, and prospective visitors can visit for further information.

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Connor Farley was a copy editor and news editor for The Heights. You can probably find him at a Phish show.