Published: June 12, 2007
A salute to Twentieth Century American music will be presented by the James A. Michener Art Museum via the photo exhibition “Gershwin to Gillespie: Portraits in American Music,” organized by George Eastman House International Museum of Photography and Film, on view June 15⁏ctober 7.
The exhibit offers glimpses into the lives and personalities of the greatest American musicians and composers, as captured by some of the most influential American photographers, including Philippe Halsman and Annie Leibovitz. Among those depicted in the 50 featured photographs are George Gershwin, Dizzy Gillespie, Leonard Bernstein, Lukas Foss, John Philip Sousa, Billie Holiday, John Coltrane, Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin and Aretha Franklin.
“Individually, these images present us with portraits of determination, idealism and a strong sense of self. As a group, these images give us a wonderful cross-section of American musical life,” noted musicologist Olivia Mattis, guest curator of the exhibition. “These images involve a partnership between a number of America’s most influential photographers and some highly creative American music personalities who were concerned about their place in history.”
The exhibition is arranged in four sections: Champions of American Music, Great American Composers, Legends of American Jazz and Icons of American Pop. Mattis has provided accompanying text that allows both the photograph and the photographer to sing out loud.
For example, experience Philippe Halsman’s portrait of Louis Armstrong and see how it illustrates that Halsman was Life magazine’s most popular cover photographer, and also experience Rolling Stone photographer Annie Leibovitz’s creative images of Bob Dylan, Brian Wilson and B.B. King. Plus, learn the story behind Art Kane’s famous “A Great Day in Harlem” †one of the most famous jazz images of all time.
“In putting together the exhibition I looked for images by photographers who were at least as well known as the subjects,” Mattis explained. “For Sinatra I chose Halsman. For Bob Dylan I chose Annie Leibovitz. For Gershwin I chose Steichen. I looked for images where the photographer and the musician were engaged in a creative dialogue.”
The James A. Michener Art Museum has two locations; in New Hope, the museum is at 500 Union Square Drive, and in Doylestown, at 138 South Pine Street.
For general information, www.michenerartmuseum.org or 215-862-7633.
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