With more than 26,000 works, the Samuel J. Wagstaff Jr. collection of photographs is the largest single group of artworks in any medium at the J. Paul Getty Museum. Wagstaff (1921-1987) amassed his extraordinary collection between 1973 and 1984, recognizing early that photography was an undervalued art form on which he might have a profound impact as a collector. He was mainly attracted to photographs that stimulated his imagination, and his taste ran toward the idiosyncratic-images that surprised him chiefly because he had never seen them before.In choosing the 147 works reproduced in this volume, Paul Martineau selected masterpieces as well as images from obscure sources: daguerreotypes, cartes-de-visite, and stereographs, plus mug shots, medical photographs, and works by unknown makers. The latter category contains some of the most outstanding objects in the collection, demonstrating Wagstaff's willingness to position unfamiliar images alongside works by established masters as well as underrepresented contemporary artists of the time, including Jo Ann Callis, William Garnett, and Edmund Teske.This book is published to accompany an eponymous exhibition on view at the J.Paul Getty Museum from March 15 to July 31, 2016; at the Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford, CT, from September 10 to December 11, 2016; and at the Portland Museum of Art in Portland, ME, from February 1 to April 30, 2017.
Paul Martineau is associate curator in the Department of Photographs at the J. Paul Getty Museum, where Weston Naef is curator emeritus. Eugenia Parry is a former professor of the histories of art and photography at Wellesley College.