Signs and Wonders: John Beasley Greene

Feb 8, 2020 - May 25, 2020

Over the course of his exceptionally brief career—he died at the age of 24—Greene made an extraordinary body of pictures that advanced both archaeology and photography and continues to offer insight into the central concerns that shaped the two fields.

In the early 1850s, Greene twice traveled to Egypt, where he used the camera to record hieroglyphic inscriptions on ancient monuments and to make spare, unpeopled views of the unfamiliar landscape. Although he exhibited his photographs while he was alive, Greene’s work escaped serious notice until the 1970s and 1980s, when an expanding art market for photographs encouraged renewed interest in 19th-century photographers. To 20th-century viewers trained in modernist art, it was impossible to ignore the striking spareness of Greene’s landscapes, his adept manipulation of negative and positive space, and the near abstraction of his close-up views. The exhibition is the first retrospective of this photography pioneer.


Elizabeth Siegel, Curator of Photography, The Art Institute of Chicago

The Art Institute of Chicago

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