For decades the fields of photography and painting have been studied by different people. To over-simplify the academic divide by a tad: Art historians studied paintings, photographic historians studied pictures. Rarely have the two met.
That’s a substantially false divide. When Matthew Brady’s first photographs of the Civil War were first shown in New York, the New York Times described him as an “artist.” Other nineteenth-century picture-takers were adamant about being considered as artists. Yet it wasn’t until artists began to make work in multiple media in the 1960s and 1970s for some of the academic walls between the two disciplines to begin to erode.
Taken from the catalogue of "Photography and the American Civil War," a major exhibition opening at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on Tuesday, here’s an unusually clear example of the artistic dialogue between painter and photographer, The painting is Thomas Cole’s 1836 View from Mount Holyoke, Northampton, Massachusetts — The Oxbow. The photograph is George Barnard’s 1864 Chattanooga Valley from Lookout Mountain, for which Barnard almost certainly mined Cole’s painting. (See a 3,000-pixel-wide image of the Barnard, via Wikimedia Commons.)
Jeff Rosenheim, the curator of the Met exhibition and the author of the fantastic book that accompanies it, is the lead guest on this week’s Modern Art Notes Podcast. He and host Tyler Green discuss Barnard’s likely interest in the Cole.