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Master Class

Posted By Administration, Monday, June 30, 2008
Updated: Monday, January 13, 2014

You might want to argue with the Metropolitan Museum's choice of the thirteen "masters" who represent the high points of photography's first hundred years (1840 to 1940) in "Framing a Century," if only because the premise of this trim, instructive survey has all the excitement of an intro-level art-history course. But step into the galleries and look around: every picture is astonishing,and the curator Malcolm Daniel's choices are sure and sophisticated.

Combining famous and little-known images, each carefully annotated grouping doesn't attempt to sum up a career; rather, it suggests the broader scope of the artist's range. The exhibition sets choice pieces from the Gilman Collection, acquired by the Met in 2005, alongside other works to emphasize the rarity, quality, and sheer beauty of the museum's holdings. What sounds like an exclusionary exercise ends up as a pleasure trip—from Roger Fenton's image of sunlight suffusing the mist above a rushing stream in 1854 to Brassaï's shot of street lights glowing through the Paris fog in 1932.

By VInce Aletti
For The New Yorker

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