Sam Wagstaff, Untitled. 1974. Three colored photographs.

The same grouping of trees is shown here at three different viewpoints. At first glance, they hearken back to the Impressionist movement, as the leaves of the tree appear to be painted. However, these three impressions are actually photographs from Samuel Jones Wagstaff Jr’s collection. After becoming close with Robert Mapplethorpe, Wagstaff became undeniably influenced by photography. He then became one of the leading figures of the movement that worked to consider photography as a fine art.

Wagstaff was born on November 4th, 1921 in New York. He graduated from Yale University but joined the US Navy shortly after as an ensign, where he was a part of the D-Day landing at Omaha Beach in World War II. He returned to school to study Renaissance art at the New York University Institute of Fine Arts. A David E. Finely art history fellowship led him to the National Art Gallery in Washington D.C. He landed his first curating position at Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford, Connecticut. He left Hartford to work at the Detroit Institute of Arts, where he stayed until 1971. Wagstaff payed close attention to the artists of the Cass Corridor art movement and was responsible for some of the recognition they received.

Written by Marissa N. Gannascoli