Smithsonian Collections Blog

Highlighting the hidden treasures from over 2 million collections

Collections Search Center

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Photographs of Artists at Work

I recently started a new position in the Research and Scholars Center at the Smithsonian American Art Museum. I’ll be the archivist for the Photograph Archives and am currently in the “getting to know you” phase of my relationship with the collections. As I navigate through the half million images, I’ll share some highlights of my findings so that you may also get to know the collection.

First up, Artists at Work: photographs from the
Peter A. Juley & Son Collection.

Have you ever wondered what your favorite artist looked
like while painting, sculpting, or creating their art? Was their studio messy or clean? What did they wear? What were their tools of choice?

I found many of these answers in the Peter A. Juley & Son Collection. Peter A. Juley (1862–1937) and his son Paul P. Juley (1890–1975) headed the largest and most respected fine arts photography firm in New York. Between 1896 and 1975, the Juleys photographed hundreds of thousands of artworks and many artists. The American Art Museum acquired the firm's photographic negatives in 1975. Most of the 127,
000 negatives are pictures of artworks, but nearly 4,700 are portraits of artists. The Juleys would often travel to artists’ studios and photograph them in action. These photographs offer an intimate, behind-the-scenes glimpse of the methods and process of making art.

Eliot O'Hara (American painter and printmaker, 1890-1960) sits on a low stool and paints on the watercolor paper at his feet. 

Diego Rivera (Mexican painter, 1886-1957) sits on wooden scaffolding while painting the "Allegory of California," San Francisco Stock Exchange Luncheon Club, 1931.

Gwen Lux (American sculptor and designer, 1908-1986) works on a model for one of her sculptures that was later shown at the Third Sculpture International exhibition in Philadelphia in 1949.

Are you curious if we have a photo of your favorite artist at work too? You can search our online catalog on SIRIS (for photographs of an artist at work, use the Subject Keyword and search for the artist’s name; for photographs of artworks by an artist, use the Artist Keyword search). Also check out our digitized collections page and Flickr Commons set.

I hope you will enjoy learning about the photograph collections. I look forward to sharing more of my discoveries with you in future blog posts.

Emily Moazami, Photograph Archives, Research and Scholars Center, Smithsonian American Art Museum

1 comment:

  1. interesting blog. It would be great if you can provide more details about it. Thanks you

    Portrait Artists