© President and Fellows of Harvard College
Identification and Creation
Object Number
Aaron Siskind, American (New York, N.Y., USA 1903 - 1991 Providence, R.I., USA)
New York 7
Work Type
Creation Place: North America, United States, New York
Physical Descriptions
Gelatin silver print
actual: 49.2 x 38.8 cm (19 3/8 x 15 1/4 in.)
Light Gallery, New York, New York, sold to the Fogg Art Museum, 1972.
Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, National Endowment for the Arts Grant
© Estate of Aaron Siskind
Object Number
Modern and Contemporary Art
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Label Text: 32Q: 1110 Mid-Century Abstraction II (Post-Painterly Abstraction) , written 2014
Siskind began to photograph in the 1930s, employing a social realist approach to street photography and developing an innovative curriculum for teaching documentary photography at the progressive New York Photo League School. Like so many artists of his generation, he explored symbolic and abstract imagery, as seen here in his closely framed and precisely extracted views of urban forms. He was the only photographer closely associated with the abstract expressionists, and, through an introduction from the painter Barnett Newman in 1947, he gained the support of Charles Egan, a gallery proprietor who regularly exhibited New York school artists. In her introductory essay for a 1951 exhibition of Siskind’s work at Egan Gallery, the painter Elaine de Kooning noted that in images like these he “reverses the natural, photographic order of vision,” confounding the apprehension of scale and upending the distinction between figure and ground, positive and negative space. In 1951 Siskind moved to Chicago to teach at the Institute of Design, where for over two decades he influenced the course of American photography, integrating elements of documentary and abstract photography into the Bauhaus-inspired model of education established there by László Moholy-Nagy.

Publication History

Caroline A. Jones, Modern Art at Harvard: The Formation of the Nineteenth- and Twentieth-Century Collections of the Harvard University Art Museums (New York, NY and Cambridge, MA, Abbeville Press/Harvard University Art Museums, 1985). With an essay by John Coolidge and a preface by John M. Rosenfield. To accompany the inaugural exhibition at the Sackler Museum, Oct 21 1985 - Jan 5 1986, 132

James Cuno, Harvard's Art Museums: 100 Years of Collecting, Harvard University Art Museums/Harry N. Abrams, Inc. (Cambridge, MA, 1996), 305

Exhibition History

Modern Art at Harvard, Harvard University Art Museums, Cambridge, 10/21/1985 - 01/05/1986

Aaron Siskind: Toward a Personal Vision 1935-1955, The Art Gallery, Boston College, Chestnut Hill, 09/30/1994 - 12/11/1994

Chasing Shadows, Harvard University Art Museums, Cambridge, 01/21/1995 - 04/02/1995

HAA 1 Survey Course: Survey of World Art: Reproduction/Production, Harvard University Art Museums, Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, 01/29/2005 - 04/10/2005

32Q: 1110 Mid-Century Abstraction II (Post-Painterly Abstraction), Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 11/01/2014 - 04/23/2015

Subjects and Contexts

Collection Highlights

The Bauhaus

This record has been reviewed by the curatorial staff but may be incomplete. Our records are frequently revised and enhanced. For more information please contact the Division of Modern and Contemporary Art at am_moderncontemporary@harvard.edu