Donors give Getty 52 images by Manuel Alvarez Bravo, Mexico’s leading photographer
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The J. Paul Getty Museum says it has added 52 more pictures by Manuel Alvarez Bravo, widely considered Latin America’s greatest photographic artist of the 20th century, to a collection of the Mexican artist’s work that now numbers 247 images.
The acquisitions announced today are gifts from Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser, a Los Angeles husband and wife also known for donating artworks made of glass to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Greenberg is chief executive of Electro Rent Corp., a Van Nuys company that rents personal computers, servers and other electronics equipment.
The Getty said that since 2000, Greenberg and Steinhauser have donated a hundred photographs by Bravo, as well as 61 pictures by Graciela Iturbide, who served a 1960s apprenticeship as Bravo’s assistant. They also have given images by American photographers Eliot Porter, William Eggleston and Carrie Mae Weems to the Getty’s collection of more than 100,000 photographs.
The museum’s pursuit of Bravo’s work began bearing fruit in 1992, when it bought 53 prints from the 1930s and 1940s from an unidentified private collector. Later that year, Bravo became the first living photographer to have a solo exhibition at the Getty. He died in 2002, at the age of 100. The gift announced Wednesday includes pictures dating from the 1920s to the 1970s.
The Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena also has a substantial array of Bravo’s work — 66 images, according to a 2006 Los Angeles Times story, that were collected by the Pasadena Art Museum before it was rescued from financial woes and subsumed in 1974 by industrialist and art collector Norton Simon.
Bravo grew up in Mexico City amid the tumult and violence of Mexico’s revolutionary period. He first bought a camera in 1924; starting in 1930, he chronicled the works of Mexico’s great muralists, Diego Rivera, Jose Clemente Orozco, David Alfaro Siqueiros and Rufino Tamayo. Rivera was among those who encouraged Bravo to go out in the countryside and towns and photograph scenes from everyday life, which became his hallmark — although his work became celebrated for capturing qualities of the hidden and the surreal beneath the apparently ordinary surfaces of the visible world.
Photographing the work of great painters during his early days “taught me attitudes, the reality and technique of art . . . the personal selection of details,” Bravo said in an interview around the time of his 1992 show at the Getty. “It gave me a concentration in different ways of seeing and thinking.”
During the year before his death, Bravo was still at work, mostly photographing nudes because it could be done in his studio.
“When one takes a photograph, one doesn’t think about saying anything in particular,” he said as his 100th birthday approached. “One doesn’t think about making a statement but rather of creating something visual which can later bear a meaning that one didn’t intend to transmit — depending upon the viewer’s interpretation but not necessarily on the photographer’s.”
-- Mike Boehm