In September, the Art Museum accepted into its collection Migrant Mother, one of the most iconic works of American photography. The black-and-white photograph by Dorothea Lange depicts a mother and infant is one of the most recognizable and sought-after images from the Depression.
Lange (1895-1965) captured the image in 1936 while documenting the poor for the federal Farm Security Administration. She continued to create important works of documentary photography after the Depression, and she co-founded the photographic magazine Aperture in 1952.
¨The image taps into both the anguish and perseverance of a dispossessed mother, trying to care for her children in a time of crisis,” Eric Lutz, the Museum’s associate curator of prints, drawings, and photographs, wrote in an acquisition proposal for the photograph. ¨Navigating between the artistic and the journalistic, Lange excelled at distilling complex situations into powerful and empathetic black-and-white images with the hopes of motivating social and economic reform.
The Art Museum’s collection includes nine other prints by Lange, most from the same time period and focusing on tenant farmers, migrant workers, and families losing their farms. These include Damaged Child, Shacktown, Elm Grove, Oklahoma and Six Tenant Farmers Without Farms, Hardeman County, Texas. Although they are not currently on view, the photographs can be seen by appointment in the Art Museum’s Print Study Room.