Photographs, Film, and Video

I Have a Dream

<i>New York City</i> from <i>Black and White in America</i> Leonard Freed, 1963.  © Leonard Freed / Magnum Photos, Inc.

New York City from Black in White America, Leonard Freed, 1963. © Leonard Freed / Magnum Photos, Inc.

One night when I was 10, I sat down to do some homework, reading a speech in my history book. It was just another day, just another assignment.

But as I read this speech, I became confused and angry. Every day at school, I recited the Pledge of Allegiance, which promised that we in the United States are free and equal. All of us. And yet this speech was telling me otherwise.

As I kept reading, I had an awakening, a realization that the ideal world I’d grown up in wasn’t so perfect. I realized that the ideas behind our country’s founding were just that—ideas. They were dreams, hopes. Not reality. Not yet, at least.

But as I continued to read, my anger changed to hope, to a sense that the dream could become a part of the real America. And I knew I would have to make sure that I did my part to make it so.

It’s the 47th anniversary of the March on Washington, where Martin Luther King gave his “I Have a Dream” speech from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.

Photographer Leonard Freed was there on that day, capturing the historic moment in the capitol. Seeing his pictures in the exhibition Engaged Observers: Documentary Photography since the Sixties reminded me of that shiver of awakening 30 years ago. You can see more of Freed’s work during this period in his pioneering photo essay Black in White America.

Much has changed. But these images, and today’s anniversary, remind me that we all still have work to do.

<i>Washington, D.C.</i> from <i>Black and White in America</i> Leonard Freed, 1963.  © Leonard Freed / Magnum Photos, Inc.

Washington, D.C. from Black in White America, Leonard Freed, 1963. © Leonard Freed / Magnum Photos, Inc.

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      #ProvenancePeek: July 31

      Every art object has a story—not only of how it was made, but of how it changed hands over time until it found its current home. That story is provenance.

      This small panel by Dutch master Gerrit Dou (photographed only in black and white) is now in the collection of the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute. It was sold to American collector Robert Sterling Clark, an heir to the Singer sewing machine fortune, in the summer of 1922.

      How do we know this? Archival sleuthing! A peek into the handwritten stock books of M. Knoedler & Co. (book 7, page 10, row 40, to be exact) records the Dou in “July 1922” (right page, margin). Turning to the sales books, which lists dates and prices, we again find the painting under the heading “New York July 1922,” with its inventory number 14892. A tiny “31” in superscript above Clark’s name indicates the date the sale was recorded.

      M. Knoedler was one of the most influential dealers in the history of art, selling European paintings to collectors whose collections formed the genesis of great U.S. museums. The Knoedler stock books have recently been digitized and transformed into a searchable database, which anyone can query for free.

      Girl at a Window, 1623–75, Gerrit Dou. Oil on panel, 10 9/16 x 7 ½ in. Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, Massachusetts

      #ProvenancePeek is a monthly series by research assistant Kelly Davis peeking into #onthisday provenance finds from the M. Knoedler & Co. archives at the Getty Research Institute.


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