CLEVELAND (December 13, 2016) – Recent acquisitions by the Cleveland Museum of Art include an album of 37 photographs by acclaimed 19th-century Indian artist Raja Deen Dayal; a painting by Wadsworth Jarrell, a founding member and leading figure of AfriCOBRA (African Commune of Bad Relevant Artists); and photographs of African American life in the 1960s by photographers Louis Draper and Leonard Freed that will be featured in an upcoming special exhibition in the museum’s Mark Schwartz and Bettina Katz Photography Gallery.
Raja Deen Dayal’s Album of 37 Photographs
Series of photographs feature stunning images of British colonial life in India
Regarded now and during his lifetime as India’s most celebrated 19th-century photographer, Raja Deen Dayal (1844–1905) has been acclaimed as the first great Indian artist/photographer. His artistic approach to the medium, coupled with his technical prowess, garnered him medals in Indian photographic competitions, regular publication in London magazines, and in 1897, a Royal Warrant as a photographer to Queen Victoria.
This album of 37 photographs takes viewers into the world of the British colonial power and princely India through formal and informal in situ portraits, and Elephant Battery troop maneuvers taken between 1885 and summer 1887. Created early in Dayal’s career, the prints in this album are full plate, rich in tonality with little fading and likely unique images. Dayal had access to the highest levels of British society and to the local rulers and nobility, and he built up a stock of regal formal portraits of Indian and colonial leaders as well as revealing, informal scenes of the British enjoying a wide range of activities from badminton, picnics and costume parties, to daily life. He photographed troop maneuvers, shown in several images in the album. The subject matter indicates it was a personal album, probably commissioned by a British civil administrator visiting or working in India in 1887 or early 1888 as a souvenir of his experiences there.
The acquisition of this album of prints brings to the collection a set of captivating images of colonial life by an immensely well-regarded Indian artist and will complement the museum’s extraordinary holdings of Indian painting and sculpture.
Vibrant painting by Wadsworth Jarrell is an outstanding example of the AfriCOBRA movement
On October 6, 2016, the CMA acquired the painting Heritage by Wadsworth Jarrell (American, born 1929) at auction. Jarrell is a founding member and a leading figure of AfriCOBRA (African Commune of Bad Relevant Artists). Closely linked with the Black Arts movement, the artists’ collective was founded in Chicago in the late 1960s with the purpose of producing works of art that conveyed the pride, power, history and energy of the African American community.
Heritage exemplifies Jarrell’s signature style with a stunning palette, prominent use of language, integration of collage elements, explicit references to jazz and a radiant composition.
Increased critical attention has been devoted to Wadsworth Jarrell’s art in recent years. His work was prominently featured in The Freedom Principle: Experiments in Art and Music, 1965 to Now, organized by Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago in 2015; and several of his paintings will be included in the upcoming exhibition Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power at the Tate Modern, scheduled for the summer of 2017.
The acquisition has local as well as national and international relevance. Wadsworth Jarrell is married to Jae Jarrell, an influential fashion artist and activist who was also a founding member of AfriCOBRA. Jae Jarrell (née Elaine Annette Johnson) was born in 1935 in Cleveland, OH. The couple moved back to the city and have been living near the Cleveland Museum of Art for the past five years.
Louis Draper Photographs
Series of images document life on the New York City streets during Civil Rights era
Working in the traditions of social documentary and street photography, Louis Draper wandered the streets of New York, especially Harlem, capturing images of daily life. Draper is significant in the history of photography not just for his images but also for co-founding Kamoinge, a workshop for African American photographers that began in 1961 and continues to this day.
These five photographs comprise four works of street photography and one portrait. Building on the work of James Van Der Zee, Roy DeCarava, and Gordon Parks, Draper strove to show his fellow African Americans as participating in universal human experiences. He tried to portray his subjects with dignity, perhaps in part as reaction against images of African Americans entrenched in rural and urban poverty and poor living conditions. Understanding, empathy and sharing are important values conveyed in his photographs.
The acquisition of these five penetrating photographs enriches the diversity of the museum’s photography collection by adding strong examples of work by an important yet still under-recognized figure and provides an historical link in the collection to the influential Kamoinge workshop. These images will be featured in the museum’s upcoming special exhibition Black in America: Louis Draper and Leonard Freed, scheduled for February 26 to July 30, 2017.
Summer, New York, 1961. Louis Draper (American, 1935–2002). Vintage gelatin silver print; 22.4 x 31.2 cm. The Cleveland Museum of Art.
Leonard Freed Photographs
Five images by an artist the New York Times called “photojournalist of injustice”
Leonard Freed was a photojournalist and a member of Magnum, the celebrated cooperative, artist-run photo agency. He is best known for the work that first made his reputation, the series and book Black in White America, a landmark commentary on racial tensions and the everyday life of African Americans in the 1960s.
Freed photographed the 1963 March on Washington and other Civil Rights protests, but his main focus was people’s everyday lives. He methodically surveyed neighborhoods in and around New York, then traveled by car throughout the South. An outsider, he spent time getting to know some of his subjects and recorded their stories and opinions in his notes, which serve as the bulk of the text for the book Black in White America.
Freed experimented with reflection, sharp contrast of dark and light, extreme compression of space, and severe foreshortening. Through cropping and close-up, he brings the viewer into the action whenever possible. Freed’s subjects include churches and bodybuilding contests, New Orleans funerals and overcrowded prisons, workers and children playing, college students and football players, protest marches and unemployment lines. The breadth and variety of experiences demonstrates that while there were definitely shared values and social injustices, black life in America was not monolithic. Freed went on to do in-depth examinations of the Arab-Israeli wars of 1967 and 1973, and the New York police department. Over the span of his career, his work explored his Jewish roots, German society, Asian immigrants in England, and other wide-ranging subjects.
These new acquisitions will be featured in the museum’s upcoming special exhibition, Black in America: Louis Draper and Leonard Freed, scheduled for February 26 to July 30, 2017. That show will also include a recent gift of 17 photographs by Leonard Freed from Michael Mattis and Judith Hochberg.
Contact the Museum's Media Relations Team: