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  • Worcester Art Museum Opens Robert Capa: Photographs

    WORCESTER, MASS., FEBRUARY 4, 2000 -- See photojournalism at its finest in Robert Capa: Photographs, on view at the Worcester Art Museum April 2 - June 4. Capa exposed approximately 70,000 negatives in his lifetime and was called one of the great poets of the camera. While previous exhibitions have explored Capa's importance as a war photographer, this retrospective shows the remarkable range of his work. Drawn from hundreds of previously unseen images, including a set of vintage prints from the collection of his brother, Cornell Capa, this exhibition shows Robert Capa to be one of the great photographers of the 20th century. Approximately 100 images will be on view in Worcester.

    Born in Budapest in 1913, Capa created images that have a timeless, universal quality that transcends the specifics of history. He photographed five wars, and his work remains the definitive visual record of the Japanese bombing of Hankou, as well as later events in the European theater of World War II, including the Allied landing on D-Day, the Liberation of Paris, and the Battle of the Bulge.

    Away from the front line, Capa counted among his friends an astonishing galaxy of luminaries, including actors Gary Cooper and Ingrid Bergman; writers Ernest Hemingway and John Steinbeck; columnist Art Buchwald; and artists Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse. Many insightful images of these friends are also included in this show. Capa's extended family in Paris included employees of Magnum, the renowned photography agency he founded in 1950. For three years, Capa devoted much time to the agency's business and to recruiting and promoting young photographers.

    Capa hated conflict, and photographed people on both sides of hostilities as individual victims of the destructive forces of war. He emphasized the faces and gestures of men and women hunkered down in foxholes, running wild-eyed from air raids, or sobbing over their losses. When photographing the sufferings of innocent civilians, Capa often turned his lens on children. Although he rarely photographed the dead or grievously wounded, Capa focused more on the survivors who were caught up in the ordinariness of life while surrounded by a maelstrom of destruction. In all, Capa allowed viewers to experience the wars as intimately as if they, too, were embroiled in the anguish.

    And yet, while he documented such atrocities, Capa was fundamentally a pacifist. He was buried in a Quaker cemetery at the age of 40 after stepping on a land mine in 1954 while on assignment for Life magazine in Indochina.

    Capa's 35mm Leica hand-held camera gave him the mobility necessary to maneuver in dangerous situations. But it was the intimacy, immediacy, compassion, and empathy that characterize his photographs. Capa could empathize deeply with many of the subjects of his photos. He understood rejection when he was exiled from Hungary and forced to flee Germany to escape anti-Semitism. He knew the pangs of hunger when living in Berlin and Paris. And he felt the anguish of losing a lover to the ravages of war, when photojournalist Gerda Taro was killed while covering a battle in Spain.

    Robert Capa: Photographs is accompanied by a softcover catalogue with 161 duotone reproductions, published by Aperture in association with the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The book includes a foreword by Capa's close friend, the distinguished photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson; a remembrance by Cornell Capa, the artist's younger brother and the founding director of the International Center of Photography; and a historical essay by Robert Capa's biographer, Richard Whelan.

    The public premiere of Robert Capa: Photographs will be on Saturday, April 1, from 7:30 - 11:30 p.m. Featuring music from the 1930s and 1940s by the Kallin Johnson Jazz Trio and hot and cold hors d'oeuvres, admission is $20 per person for Museum members, and $30 per person for non-members. RSVPs are required by March 24. To reserve a space, call 508-799-4406, X-3105.

    Other events related to the exhibition include the following lectures, gallery talks and symposium:

    "Life" at War: Robert Capa and His Coverage of World War II
    Sunday, April 2, 2 PM
    Higgins Education Wing, Conference Room
    Cost: $6M, $8NM
    Richard Whelan, author of Robert Capa: Photographs, will explore the life and work of Robert Capa, including his photographs depicting the European theater of World War II. Many of these photos appeared in the pages of Life magazine.

    Capturing the Now: The Art of Photojournalism
    Saturday, May 13, 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
    Jeppson Hall, Trinity Lutheran Church
    Pre-registration required
    $40 members and students with valid ID
    $50 non-members
    Includes lunch

    Robert Capa was one of the greatest photojournalists of the 20th century. With the exhibition Robert Capa: Photographs as a backdrop, this symposium will explore various aspects of the field of photojournalism including the history, its relationship to photography in general, and its place in the history of art. Presenters will include Vicki Goldberg, New York Times, Michael Carlebach, University of Miami, Steve Jareckie, Curator Emeritus of the Worcester Art Museum, and Claude Cookman, Indiana University.

    Gallery Talks
    Through Capa's Lens
    Sunday, April 9, 2000 at 2:00 p.m.
    Free with Museum Admission

    Join Worcester Art Museum docent and photographer Pat Peterson on an exploration of the photography of Robert Capa. This program will focus on the scope of Capa's career, the wide range of images he produced, and his heroic approach to photojournalism.

    Robert Capa: Visual Communicator
    Sunday, May 21, 2000 at 2:00 p.m.
    Free with Museum Admission

    Prior to television, society relied on photographers like Robert Capa to bring information about world events into their homes. Leslie Starobin, Framingham State College, will discuss the role of photography as one of the most important forms of visual communication in the 20th century.

    This exhibition is sponsored by Flagship Bank and Trust Company, The BHR Life Companies, and Wachusett Mountain Ski Area/Polar Corporation. Media support is provided by the TelegramGazette. Additional support is provided by the Hall and Kate Peterson Fund for Photography and the Amelia and Robert Hutchinson Haley Lectures Fund. Robert Capa: Photographs, was organized by the Alfred Stieglitz Center of the Philadelphia Museum of Art from the Robert Capa Archive at the International Center of Photography, New York. Initial funding for the exhibition was provided by The Pew Charitable Trusts. The accompanying catalogue, published by Aperture, received the generous support of Lynne and Harold Honickman and of Claire and Richard Yaffa.

    Museum Background

    Opened to the public in 1898, the Worcester Art Museum is the second largest art museum in New England. Its exceptional 35,000-piece collection of paintings, sculpture, decorative arts, photography, prints and drawings is displayed in 36 galleries and spans 5,000 years of art and culture, ranging from Egyptian antiquities and Roman mosaics to Impressionist paintings and contemporary art. Throughout its first century, the Worcester Art Museum proved itself a pioneer: the first American museum to purchase work by Claude Monet (1910) and Paul Gauguin (1921); the first museum to bring a medieval building to America (1927); a sponsor of the first major excavation at Antioch, one of the four great cities of ancient Rome (1932); the first museum to create an Art All-State program for high school artists (1987); the originator of the first exhibition of Dutch master Judith Leyster (1993); and the first museum to focus its contemporary art programs on art of the last 10 years (1998). The Museum's hours are: Wednesday through Sunday, 11am-5pm, and Saturday 10am-5pm. Admission: FREE for members; Non-members: $8 Adults; $6 Seniors and full-time college students with current ID; FREE for youth 17 and under; FREE for everyone Saturday mornings 10am-noon sponsored by The TJX Companies and Massachusetts Electric Company. For more information, call (508) 799-4406 or visit the Museum at 55 Salisbury Street in Worcester.