Russell Sturgis (1836-1909) and Richard Morris Hunt (1827-1895) were among the most important of America’s Gilded Age architects, and collected and utilized photographic prints to satisfy their professional and personal interests. Beginning in the 1850s, both recognized the medium as an effective way to retain information about architectural styles seen in Europe and in the ancient world, and over a period of several decades sought out images being created by noted photographers. When Sturgis’ career became more focused on architectural criticism and history, he would utilize many pieces from his collection to illustrate his writings in both journals and books.
This discussion highlights the kind of images that both men collected, looking at how photographers such as Edouard Baldus, Charles Marville, Robert Macpherson, Charles Clifford, and the Bisson frères built portfolios early in their career that catered to the needs of architects and historians. Family and personal interests also found their way into the types of photographs that Hunt and Sturgis acquired, providing us with a more enhanced understanding of the variance, availability, and uses of photography during the second half of the nineteenth century. Both men’s collections today still hold thousands of early photographic prints, a truly unexplored resource worthy of further consideration.
Presenter David Hanlon is an educator, historian, and photographic artist based in St. Louis, MO. He has had essays on aspects of early photography published in museum catalogs and in international journals, and is the author of the book "Illuminating Shadows: The Calotype in Nineteenth-Century America" (2013). In the 1990s, he catalogued and recorded the 16,000 photographic print collection assembled by Russell Sturgis (1836-1909), now at Washington University in St. Louis, and over the past several years has been undertaking similar work with the early images in the Richard Morris Hunt Collection, now in the Library of Congress.
Presented on May 1, 2021.