Los Angeles-based art collectors Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser are donating hundreds of works by influential 20th-century photographers, including Dorothea Lange, William Eggleston and Mary Ellen Mark, to the National Gallery of Art in Washington and the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles.
The National Gallery has received 143 gelatin silver prints by Lange, with an additional 10 works promised. The Getty gift includes 386 works by 17 photographers, including Berenice Abbott, Bruce Davidson and Eudora Welty.
The gifts, announced today, are part of a larger initiative involving donations to 13 art institutions.
Steinhauser said she and Greenberg have always seen themselves as “temporary stewards” of the works they have been collecting for more than 20 years. “We always knew we wanted to give them back to the public,” she said.
This is the couple’s first gift to the National Gallery, which began collecting photographs in 1990. They previously have given several museums significant portions of their collection of photographs, ceramics and studio glass. The latest gifts are the largest they’ve made.
Greenberg said it was especially satisfying that the Lange collection was going to the National Gallery.
“A great photographer from the Depression era, Dorothea caught all of the pathos, the pain, the resignation, all of the feelings of that moment in history,” he said. “These pictures define our country during the Depression, and now they reside in the National Gallery of Art.”
Some of the photos will be featured in the upcoming NGA exhibition “The New Woman Behind the Camera,” slated for spring 2019.
The 143 Lange photographs span her entire career — the 1920s to the 1960s — and include multiple prints of some of her best-known works, including “Migrant Mother,” “Death in the Doorway” and “Migratory Cotton Picker.”
National Gallery Senior Curator Sarah Greenough expressed gratitude for the donation. The gallery had only two works by Lange in its collection.
“Marrying her strong formal vision with a deep sense of humanity, Lange helped change the course of documentary photography by creating aesthetically powerful and compelling images that sought to effect social change,” Greenough said in an email.
Greenberg and Steinhauser are founding members of the Getty Museum Photographs Council, and they have donated more than 500 photographs to that museum since 2000. The couple’s latest gift includes the first works by Ruth Bernhard and Welty to enter its collection, while 27 works by Imogen Cunningham will join 66 prints by that photographer already in its holdings. The gift also includes Chris Killip’s “Isle of Man” portfolio. The Getty will open a major exhibition on Killip in May.