The Metropolitan Museum of Art announced today that it has received a promised gift of more than seven-hundred rare photographs—including daguerreotypes, ambrotypes, tintypes, albumen silver prints, and gelatin silver prints—and albums dating from the 1840s to the 1910s. Donated by museum trustee Philip Maritz and his wife, Jennifer, in celebration of the Met’s 150th anniversary, the works are from the private collection of Drew Knowlton and William L. Schaeffer. In addition, the institution also acquired seventy photographs documenting the American Civil War with funds from trustee Joyce Frank Menschel.
“Brilliantly amassed over forty-five years, the William L. Schaeffer Collection includes extraordinary examples of every format of photography from the birth of the medium in 1839 to the modern era,” said Jeff Rosenheim, the curator in charge of the museum’s department of photographs. “With these unusual and little-known historical works, the Met will now be able to rewrite the narrative of American photography by associating established early masters of the genre—Josiah Johnson Hawes, John Moran, Charles DeForest Fredricks, and Carleton Watkins—with generally unknown makers whose lives and works have yet to be fully studied and presented to the general public.”
A selection of daguerreotypes and early paper prints from Jennifer and Philip Maritz’s gift is currently on view in the exhibition “2020 Vision: Photographs, 1840s–1860s,” which opened on December 3, 2019 and runs through May 10, 2020. Presenting some fifty works by early practitioners such as Anna Atkins, Hippolyte Bayard, and William Henry Fox Talbot, the show includes examples of candid portraiture, picturesque landscapes, pioneering travel photography, and photojournalism.