Worcester Art Museum Exhibition to Focus on the Final Years of Documentary Photographer Lewis Wickes Hine-April 1-June 10

WORCESTER, MASS, MARCH 13, 2001- Although best known for his early 20th-century portrayals of child laborers and immigrants at Ellis Island, the important American documentary photographer Lewis Wickes Hine produced a significant, yet less recognized body of work during the 1930s. The exhibition, Lewis Wickes Hine: The Final Years, opening at the Worcester Art Museum on April l, will present more than 40 prints from the Brooklyn Museum of Art's extensive Hine holdings. The show's strong Depression-era images of machines and adult laborers reveal the photographer's shift in subject matter during the last decade of his life, while underscoring his ability to champion social causes for the working class.

“The majority of the exhibition's images,” states Maura Brennan, Assistant Curator of Prints, Drawings and Photographs at the Museum, “went almost unrecognized in Hine's own day. This show demonstrates that despite Hine's lack of commercial success at the end of his career, his strength as a photographer remained throughout his life.” During the 1930s, Hine undertook a series of projects for the federal government's Works Progress Administration (WPA) and National Research Projects, jobs driven by the desire to keep his name before the public and by his own economic hardship. (He died penniless in 1940, at age 66.) “His images of machines without people are some of the most surprising works in the exhibition,” states Brennan. “They represent Hine's attempt to impress Roy Stryker, head of the Farm Security Administration photo project, who suggested Hine depict urban and rural subjects without people.”

While Hine's earlier work depicting the harsh realties of child labor showed the danger and horrors of the industrial age, his later images of adult laborers-photographs of women in New England mills, migrant field hands in the South and construction workers in New York, for example-seemingly show more positive images of an industrialized society. Nevertheless, the photographs serve to document the inherent danger of machines and the threat of loss of work altogether. “Viewers will be particularly fascinated by the Hine images documenting the construction of the Empire State Building,” notes Brennan. “The way he was able to orchestrate this project was nothing short of incredible. To take these photographs, he had to carry his large format view camera up scaffolding and shoot from great heights.”

Lewis Wickes Hine: The Final Years will run through June 10. A tour of the exhibition, Hine Sight, will be conducted by Museum docent Pat Peterson on Wednesday, April 11 at 2PM and on Saturday, April 14 at 2PM. The tour is open to the public and free with Museum admission. This exhibition is organized by the Brooklyn Museum of Art. Support provided by the Hall and Kate Peterson Fund for Photography.

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.