When Arthur Ross Gallery (ARG) Director Lynn Marsden-Atlass was an affiliated fellow for a month at the American Academy in Rome last year, a series of images in its impressive photo archive caught her eye.
Esther Boise Van Deman, Georgina Masson, and Jeannette Montgomery Barron—all American women—were the makers of the images. Their unique photographs, with the earliest dated 1903, showcase the travelers’ views of Rome, and were being organized for an exhibit at the American Academy.
Marsden-Atlass, also the University curator, thought the collection would be a perfect match for the ARG, so she asked the American Academy’s art director, Peter Benson Miller, if she could bring the exhibition to Penn. The rest is history.
Open now at the ARG through Dec. 10, the exhibition, “A View of One’s Own,” displays archeologist Van Deman’s pictures of Rome and its surroundings in the early 1900s; Masson’s images, which she took for her classic guidebook “The Companion Guide to Rome”; and contemporary photographs and a video from Barron, whose glimpses of Rome have been caught with an iPhone.
“You have three remarkable photographers who showcase the evolution of photography, the evolution of the city of Rome, and the transformation of women,” says Marsden-Atlass. “What I love is that each one documents the history of Rome in their time. It’s like time traveling.”
After the images were showcased at the American Academy last fall, the photographs were packed, crated, and shipped to Philadelphia. It’s the first time “they’ve been publicly exhibited outside of the Academy,” says Marsden-Atlass. And it’s the first time the ARG has had such a partnership with the American Academy.
Intentionally bilingual—in English and Italian—the exhibition is meant to engage related courses on campus, including language, history, gender studies, and photography classes. There’s also a student component to the exhibit, featuring 10 photographs taken by a variety of Penn undergraduates and graduates, displaying, appropriately, their unique views of the University and Philadelphia.
The 10 students whose images were juried and selected for the online exhibit will be announced and congratulated at a special reception on Sept. 6. Miller, from the American Academy, will be a featured speaker at 5:30 p.m.
Other related events will take place through the fall, including a talk—“Watching the Light in Rome”—from School of Design Dean Frederick Steiner on Oct. 4; a Daedalus Quartet performance in the ARG on Oct. 20; and an artist talk from photographer Barron on Nov. 1. See other planned programming on the ARG’s website.
The ARG, which is housed in the Fisher Fine Arts Library building, is free and open to the public Tuesdays through Fridays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturdays and Sundays from noon to 5 p.m. In September, Marsden-Atlass says, also look out for student docent-led tours of the exhibition on weekend afternoons at 1 p.m.