October 5, 2001 Recent Acquisition of Modern Photography in America Announced

The Warren and Margot Coville Collection of the Clarence H. White School of Photography

Press Contact: Craig D'Ooge (202) 707-9189
Public Contact: Verna Curtis (202) 707-8938

A program to celebrate the recent acquisition of an extraordinary compilation of photographs from the first American school of art photography, the Clarence H. White School of Photography, will take place on Thursday, October 11, at noon in the Library of Congress's Pickford Theater, third floor of the James Madison Memorial Building. Collector Warren Coville will describe his experiences collecting works by photographers associated with this influential school. Joining him will be Kathy Erwin, Curator of the Coville Collection. She will discuss her research toward locating and documenting the school's students. The lecture is open and free to the public. For reservations, call Carol Johnson at (202) 707-9336.

The Warren and Margot Coville Collection consists of 281 photographs and related materials by Clarence H. White and students of the Clarence H. White School of Photography (1914-1942). It includes photographs by Margaret Bourke-White, Anton Bruehl, Paul Haviland, Karl Struss, Doris Ulmann, and Paul Outerbridge. In addition, there are historical materials about students and teachers that broaden and revitalize a period in the history of photography that is of increasing interest to students of photography, educators and researchers.

The Collection is a gift of Warren and Margot Coville and a purchase by the Library of Congress from the Coville Photographic Art Foundation over three years. Photography collectors Warren and Margot Coville reside in Detroit and Sarasota, Florida. They began their collection in 1975.

Five years ago, an exhibition of the Clarence H. White School of Photography, circulated by the Detroit Institute of Arts and supported by the Michigan-based Coville Photographic Art Foundation, toured the United States and Canada. Exhibition venues included the George Eastman House, Rochester, New York; the International Center of Photography, New York City, and the Museum of Photographic Arts, San Diego. Its accompanying book, Pictorialism into Modernism; The Clarence H. White School of Photography, was published by Rizzoli in 1996.

The Coville Collection perfectly complements the Library of Congress's outstanding holdings of early art photography in America, which includes extraordinary groups of work by Clarence H. White, Laura Gilpin and Paul Outerbridge Jr., acquired during the mid-1920s to the 1950s. The Library's representation of American art photography is particularly broad. The most recognizable among the first American art photographers or "pictorialists," as they called themselves, was Alfred Stieglitz, who gathered a coterie around himself, known as the Photo- Secession. The disbanding of that group in the mid 1910s coincided with the emergence of Clarence H. White (1871-1925) as the most influential American leader. His own photographs were the first purchased as art by the Library in 1926.

White was an internationally prominent art photographer, who introduced comprehensive instruction in art photography to the United States. He inspired students through his personality and dedication to the principles and values of art. The formal school that he started in New York City flourished from 1914 to 1942, with summer sessions at Georgetown Island, Maine; Canaan, Conn.; and Woodstock, N.Y. It advocated using the photographic medium for creative expression and applying art principles to commercial work, including advertising. White showed the way in this new field, and many of his celebrated students were early practitioners. The White School spawned a generation of some of the best known photographers in the fields of advertising, illustration, documentary work and photojournalism. Similar to the Bauhaus, the landmark art and design school in Germany, it was a proving ground for photography as a form of expression and a conduit to good design in everyday life. Those associated with the School became trendsetters in their respective fields.

Among the collection's highlights are photographs by such luminaries as:

  • Modernists who are among the first masters in the field of advertising like Canadian Margaret Watkins
  • Humanists Dorothea Lange and Allie Bramberg Bode
  • Portraitists and landscape photographers Laura Gilpin, Paul L. Anderson, Clara Sipprell, and Anne W. Brigman

For more than two centuries, the Library of Congress has served as the national library of the United States. Prominent among its holdings are the pictorial collections. The Library of Congress was the first American institution to collect photography as both a documentary medium and an art form. Numbering some 12 million original photographs and photographic negatives, the photography collections are unparalleled in their comprehensiveness, scope and contents. Over the past century the Library has assembled through copyright deposit, government transfer, gift and purchase an unsurpassed photographic record of American history and achievement. The Library's collections have a vital role to play in the renewed importance of the photographic medium as the most widely employed means for visual expression and communication in the 20th century.

Note to Editors: The following photographic images are available.

Anton Bruehl. Top Hats
Gelatin silver print, circa 1929

White School students considered Bruehl the most prominent advertising photographer, and often emulated his work in their assignments. This work appeared in many printed advertisements for the Weber and Heilbroner company in The New Yorker.

Anton and Martin Bruehl. A Resting Model
Carbro print, circa 1935
Both the Bruehls and Paul Outerbridge perfected the color carbro technique, a tour de force of color printing that was highly admired for its wondrous fidelity and color range. The Bruehls formed a successful commercial partnership in New York, and produced high quality color images, such as this one, for the publisher Condé Nast in the 1930s.

Margaret Bourke-White. Organ Pipes
Gelatin silver print, circa 1931
Best known for her work with Fortune and Life, Bourke-White studied with White at Columbia University. White's emphasis on design and composition mirrored her own interests. This is an unpublished image from a Fortune assignment on "The U.S. Organ," and may be a view of the Aeolian organ at the Pierre S. du Pont Longwood Gardens estate near Wilmington, Del.

Doris Ulmann. A Southern Mountaineer
Platinum print, circa 1928
White student Doris Ulmann has become known for her folkloric studies of people in rural areas, such as this portrait of a venerable mountaineer who was "proud of having been on the top of every mountain in his section of the country," according to her published caption.

Allie Bramberg Bode. A Mexican Boy
Platinum print, 1925
Bode traveled with White and fellow students to Mexico on a photographic study trip in 1925. While on this trip, White suddenly took severely ill and died. Bode's sensitivity to her subject and to light and shadow can be seen in this photograph, which was included in a solo exhibition of her work at the Brooklyn Institute of Arts and Sciences in 1929.

Dorothea Lange. Ex-Slave with a Long Memory
Gelatin silver print, 1937 or 1938
Best known for her image of the "Migrant Mother" -- one of the most famous images in the Library of Congress's photographic collections -- Lange has been celebrated for her portrayal of the effects of the Great Depression of the 1930s. She studied with White at Columbia in the 1910s and remarked that White was "a great teacher...he touched lives." This image was published with the caption: We live anywhere in general where there's work, in an article in U.S. Camera in 1941, titled, "Camera with a Purpose."

Karl Struss. The Landing Place, Villa Carlotta, Lake Como, Italy
Platinum print exposed on both sides of the paper, 1909
Struss provided a link between White's students and Alfred Stieglitz's Photo-Secession (as its last member to be named in 1912). This image from his 10-week trip to Europe prior to World War I was published in Stieglitz's acclaimed photographic art journal, Camera Work. This exceptionally rich print uses a technique he discovered of exposing the image on both sides of the paper. After studying at the White School, he became one of its advisers. He later became a pioneer cinematographer in Hollywood.

Laura Gilpin. Bryce Canyon, Utah
Gelatin silver print, 1930
After leaving the White School, Gilpin became a commercial photographer living in Colorado Springs from 1918 to 1942, specializing in portraiture and Western landscapes. Her photographic archives is at the Amon Carter Museum in Fort Worth, Texas.


PR 01-146
ISSN 0731-3527