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The Thrill of the Chase

From 1973 to 1984, Samuel J. Wagstaff, Jr. (American, 1921-1987) assembled one of the most important private collections of photographs in the world. Wagstaff promoted photography as an art form by organizing exhibitions, delivering lectures, and publishing material on his collection. In 1984, a few years before his death from AIDS-related complications, Wagstaff sold his collection to the J. Paul Getty Museum. Numbering several thousand, the collection now forms a cornerstone of the Getty Museum’s holdings of photographs.

The organization of the exhibition will be roughly chronological, highlighting both masterpieces and lesser known works from Wagstaff’s collection. Well-known photographers such as William Henry Fox Talbot, Gustave le Gray, Julia Margaret Cameron, Edgar Degas, Walker Evans, Dr. Harold Edgerton, Diane Arbus, Robert Frank, and William Klein will be featured, among many others. The prints, drawn exclusively from the Getty’s permanent collection, are of very high quality and will interest a wide spectrum of visitors.

Drawing upon research conducted in the Samuel J. Wagstaff Archive at the Getty Research Institute, the goal of this exhibition is to showcase a wide range of photographs (including daguerrotypes, cartes-de-visite, stereographs, and paper prints) and use them as a foil for exploring Wagstaff’s enduring vision and influence.