Barbara Morgan (1900-1992) is widely recognized for her groundbreaking photographic images of the American modern dance movement from the 1930s and 1940s. The artist aimed to free the figure within space, focusing on singular movements and sometimes using double-exposures to create a slow-motion effect. Both an expressionist and a modernist, Morgan was interested the concept of visual metaphors fluctuating between realism and abstraction. Throughout her life, Morgan produced work within different mediums with fluidity, shaped by what she described as “early root experiences” with painting and poetry. Her drawings, watercolors, paintings and photographs captured city themes, western landscapes, the poetry of the body and its rhythm.


Born in 1900 in Buffalo, Kansas, Morgan grew up in Southern California where she attended University of California Los Angeles. Majoring in fine art and art history had a profound effect on Morgan, pushing her to navigate between different mediums throughout her career. After an encounter with Edward Weston, she realized photography’s potential for artistic expression. In 1930, she moved to New York where she would soon meet Martha Graham and her dance company. She passed away in 1992 at the age of 92. Morgan was awarded a major grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, a Philadelphia Museum of Art Fellowship and a Lifetime Achievement Award by American Society of Magazine Photographers, Washington D.C. A member of the Photo League, she was also among the original founders of Aperture. In 2006, she had her first solo show with Bruce Silverstein.


By 1945 she had a major solo exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Mellon Gallery in Philadelphia and the Sherman Gallery, New York. Other major exhibitions include the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; George Eastman House, Rochester; Smithsonian Institute, Washington D.C.; Los Angeles Museum; and the Fine Art Gallery in San Diego.


Her work can be found at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; Lincoln Center Library and Museum of Performing Arts, New York; National Portrait Gallery, Washington D.C.; Museum of Modern Art, New York; Center for Creative Photography, Tucson; Library of Congress, Washington D.C.; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa; New Orleans Museum; Smithsonian Institution, Washington D.C.; and the Amon Carter Museum, Texas among other numerous permanent collections worldwide.


In 1941, Morgan published Martha Graham: Sixteen Dances in Photographs, which became so valuable it started being stolen from libraries by the 1970s. The book was reprinted in 1980.

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